Shoul­der­ing blame

CEO re­signs over sui­cide of over­worked em­ployee

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

The pres­i­dent of Ja­pan’s big­gest ad­ver­tis­ing agency said he plans to re­sign, a year af­ter an em­ployee sui­cide linked to al­le­ga­tions of ex­treme over­work.

The an­nounce­ment came as au­thor­i­ties re­ferred Dentsu and one of its ex­ec­u­tives to pros­e­cu­tors on sus­pi­cion of vi­o­lat­ing la­bor law by forc­ing the 24-year-old em­ployee to work il­le­gally long hours.

Mat­suri Taka­hashi, a grad­u­ate of the pres­ti­gious Univer­sity of Tokyo, com­mit­ted sui­cide on Christ­mas Day 2015 at a com­pany dor­mi­tory.

She had worked more than 100 hours of over­time ev­ery month hav­ing joined the com­pany in April of the same year, Ja­panese me­dia re­ported.

She had posted on Twit­ter a wish to die and said she “would be hap­pier” if she did.

Hun­dreds of deaths from over­work — known as “karoshi” in Ja­pan — due to strokes, heart at­tacks and sui­cides are re­ported ev­ery year, along with a host of se­ri­ous health prob­lems.

The phe­nom­e­non has sparked law­suits and calls to ur­gently tackle the prob­lem.

Tadashi Ishii, Dentsu pres­i­dent, an­nounced late on Wed­nes­day that he would leave his post next month.

“An ex­ces­sive amount of work should never hap­pen,” he said. “I deeply re­gret and feel re­spon­si­ble for this.

“I will take full re­spon­si­bil­ity and re­sign as pres­i­dent at Jan­uary’s board meet­ing.”

Ishii, how­ever, said the com­pany should not pre­vent em­ploy­ees from do­ing their best.

“But I deeply re­gret that I couldn’t put a break on (ex­ces­sive work­loads) and that I couldn’t set a cer­tain stan­dard,” he added.

The so­cially in­flu­en­tial agency is no­to­ri­ous for its de­mand­ing work cul­ture, but has come in for harsh crit­i­cism since Taka­hashi’s death.

While the pop­u­lar im­age of Ja­panese salaried men and women toil­ing long hours for the com­pany be­fore tak­ing the last train home is chang­ing, many still spend far more hours at the work­place than their coun­ter­parts in other mod­ern economies.

Ac­cord­ing to a govern­ment sur­vey re­leased in Oc­to­ber, more than one in five Ja­panese com­pa­nies have em­ploy­ees who work such long hours that they are at se­ri­ous risk of death.

The sur­vey was part of the na­tion’s first white pa­per on “karoshi” en­dorsed by Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s cabi­net.

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