Overworking, while generally frowned upon, is actually an ongoing culture in Japan. In fact, it’s widely considered as a normality in the land of the Samurai, with the working culture heavily tilted towards the hardworking side.
But what is too much, even for something as vague as overworking?
In this article, we explore the entire concept of overworking, as we unravel the mystery of Mr Hayato Maeda’s death as well as the overarching web of overworking itself.
Note: thank goodness Goody Feed doesn’t advocate overworking. And I’m not saying this because the boss has a finger gun pointed to my head.
Mr Hayato Maeda was a 20-year-old high school graduate who decided to pursue a career in the working industry, like many of his peers did. Lest you’re not aware, a high school graduate is like a secondary school graduate in Singapore.
Unlike many of his peers, however, Mr Maeda was constantly clocking extreme hours of overtime, with the period between September and November 2015 alone registering between 81 and 105 hours of overtime per month.
(Fact: The maximum number of OT hours to clock in Singapore is 72 hours)
But that wasn’t all.
Apart from unhealthy levels of workload, Mr Maeda also had to constantly endure harsh rebukes from his superiors at a chocolate factory for Japanese firm Goncharoff, where he reportedly worked since 2014.
The unique blend of chronically long hours and harsh remarks eventually caused him to lapse into severe depression by December 2015, and decide to quit the following year.
But even then he wasn’t spared, as his superiors are alleged to have scorned his decision.
“You only have high school education. Nobody will want to hire you.”
Unable to take it anymore, the young man turned up at a train station in Kobe in June 2016 and jumped in front of an incoming train.
There was no excessive overwork
Following Mr Maeda’s death, his mother Kazumi Maeda, 44, said at a press conference:
“I just want to tell my son, ‘You are not worthless. He was gradually being driven to his death.”
But even then, Goncharoff was stoic in its stance.
“We see no basis in the claim and as such do not recognise there was excessive overwork or power harassment,” a spokesman for Goncharoff said.
And according to official records, Goncharoff was not in the wrong. Mr Maeda was recognised to have worked only a total of 88 hours of overtime in the three months before his clinically diagnosed depression.
But is it legit? According to the government, Goncharoff might actually be practising what is known in Japan as “service overtime”, a notion behind hours that are off the books.
And let’s face it: we’re also guilty of doing that in Singapore. How many of us clock in our extra hours precisely every day?
With overworking complaints getting ever higher, Japan has been forced to correct it, with work-style reform laws in Parliament getting passed just late last month.
But would it work?
Scientologist Emi Kataoka of Komazawa University in Tokyo doesn’t think so.
According to her, the new work-style reform law, while intended to drive productivity, may backfire because of the “high possibility that workers will be at the brunt of stronger pressure and more harassment to raise their productivity”.
“It is also a reality, that there is no law to protect workers from power harassment,” she added.
OT Hours in Singapore
While this occurred in Japan, the culture of excessive OT hours is also common here in Singapore.
Almost 65% of workers in Singapore has clocked in extra hours…just because they “felted obliged” to.
Let’s stop overworking
Overworking’s toxic; overworking’s a waste.
So clock off early, and go back to your family and friends.
And I’m totally not saying that because my boss has returned to his office.
Now you know what Singaporeans are talking about today; do check back tomorrow for another piece of news of the day!