Miwa Sado literally worked herself to death. The media worker spent 159 hours in overtime in a single month before keeling over from heart failure – an occurrence that is fairly common in Japan.
The 31-year-old was employed at NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, where she was rushing to cover two elections. Sado took only two days off in July 2013, working nearly double the hours considered industry standard for Americans, The New York Times reports.
Her death is being chalked up to karoshi, an oft-used Japanese term for “death from overwork.”
Sado’s death was made public just this week by her employer, and is expected to increase pressure on the country’s extreme work standards that have led to an alarming number of deaths. In 2016, a young advertising agency employee likewise died due to karoshi. In 2015, Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-year-old worker, committed suicide due to work-related stress stemming from over a hundred hours of overtime.
Takahashi had posted, “I want to die,” on social media, The Guardian reports. “I’m physically and mentally shattered.”
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and the government, have proposed a monthly cap of 100 hours for overtime, including penalties for companies that contribute to Japan’s notorious culture of overworking to prove how hardworking and dedicated employees are. A sleep survey in 2014 found that Japanese employees sleep an average of six just six hours and 22 minutes daily – much less than any other country.
An official government document issued by the country last year showed that one in five workers were found to be at risk of karoshi. From January to March 2016, over 2,000 citizens had committed suicide due to work-related stress, while dozens more had died of heart attack and strokes from overworking.
Masahiko Yamauchi, a senior official at NHK, said, “(Sado’s death reflects a) problem for our organization as a whole, including the labor system and how elections are covered.”
Sado’s parents, through NHK, said, “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.”