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16 Feb 2017

Japan: Workers work up to or beyond "karoshi line" in most Japanese manufacturers

An umbrella organisations of labour unions in the manufacturing industries has published a study showing that the agreements between management and the labour unions of manjor manufacturers all allow for overtime at least up to the officialy recognised "karoshi line" of 80 hours overtime per month, and many provide for overtime far beyond that limit. For example, the agreement at IHI reportedly allows for workers to perform up to 200 hours of overtime per month, Hitachi up to 150, and Sumitomo Heavy Industries up to 140. Toshiba allows 120, Mitsubishi Electrics 105, and  Fujitsu, JFE Steel, and Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding all allow 100 hours of overtime per month. Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, NEC, and Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal all allow for up to 80 hours of overtime. 

Government guidelines state that workers should not perform more than 45 hours of overtime per month: however, these guidelines are not binding. Japanese labour law allows for unions (most of which are company based) to enter into agreements with management regarding the maximum amount of overtime to be allowed, and the agreements in many companies go beyond the government recognised "karoshi line".  Several high profile cases of death from overwork have led to the goverment starting preparation of a bill that would prohibit overtime beyond a specified limit: however, reports indicate that this bill may stipulate a limit beyond the "karoshi line".