In 2013, journalist Miwa Sado passed away of heart failure after logging 159 hours of overtime in just one month. While the journalist for NHK passed away several years ago, the cause of her death has only been made public recently by her previous employer.
Her death may come as a surprise to many but for Japanese workers, putting in an inordinate amount of time at work is part of the job. The Guardian reported in 2014 that Japanese workers only get six hours of sleep on weekdays, which amounts to less time than any other country. The information came from a poll conducted by the US National Sleep Foundation.
Sado logged 159 overtime hours in the span of one month, only taking two days off during the stretch.
In a report released last year by The Guardian, numbers came in revealing just how many Japanese workers were at risk of health complications or death on account of being overworked. They reported that “22.7% of companies polled between December 2015 and January 2016 said some of their employees logged more than 80 hours of overtime each month.” They added that over 21% of workers work 49 hours a week.
Sado was reportedly working to cover a major election in the days before her death. A senior official at NHK’s News Department, Masahiko Yamauchi, said the incident was a “problem for our organization as a whole, including the labor system and how elections are covered.” He added that details of Sado’s case were only released now on account of her family’s wishes.
According to the government, more than 2,000 Japanese workers committed suicide in 2016 on account of being overworked. Several others underwent health complications.
NHK issued a statement on behalf of Sado’s parents: “Even today, four years on, we cannot accept our daughter’s death as a reality. We hope that the sorrow of a bereaved family will not be wasted.”