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    Japan strengthens measures to prevent deaths by overwork

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    The Japanese government has adopted a series of emergency measures to prevent deaths due to overwork, following the deaths of two employees of a prominent advertising agency that became public recently, officials said on Tuesday.

    The measures, approved Monday by the Labour Ministry and published by financial daily Nikkei, aim to increase monitoring of companies to ensure compliance with overtime laws.

    Besides conducting surprise inspections at companies, authorities will also publicly reveal the names of firms which have seen cases of “karoshi”, or death caused by overwork, as also those which force their staff to work extra hours beyond the legally allowed limit of 80 hours overtime a month,

    In October, the government published a report in response to such cases, which showed nearly a fourth of the country’s workforce could be exceeding this limit.

    The new measures, which will come into effect in January 2017, also include steps to advise companies on labour laws and foster medical and psychological help for employees who may be suffering from fatigue or work-related stress.

    Concern and debate over excess work has been revived in the archipelago after the suicide of a 24-year-old female employee of Dentsu – the leading advertising firm in Japan – was confirmed to be a case of “karoshi” in October.

    She had reportedly worked 105 extra hours the month before her death, although the company records reflected overtime within the permissible limit.

    Her family alleged the company had forced her to indicate lesser hours than those she had actually worked.

    The young woman, who died in December 2015 and who had been hired only seven months earlier by the company, had previously tweeted about having worked up to 20 hours a day.

    Days after the confirmation of her case as karoshi, the death of another Dentsu employee in 2013 was also established to have been caused by excessive work.

    The Japanese government last year approved a law to address problems caused by excessive work, but the lack of rigor on recording of extra hours by firms, and the staff’s willingness to extend their working hours to earn a bonus makes it difficult to control the practice.

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