President of Japanese Firm Resigns After Overworked Employee Commits Suicide

President of Japanese Firm Resigns After Overworked Employee Commits Suicide

The head of Dentsu, a Japanese firm, has resigned over an employee suicide. This is the first time in recent history a major position has been vacated due to such an incident.

Matsuri Takahashi worked at Dentsu, putting in hundreds of hours of overtime before taking her own life, “karoshi,” or death by being overworked at the age of 24.

She left a note behind for her mom asking “Why do things have to be so hard?”

Ms. Takahashi’s department was recently cut from fourteen to six people and she began citing fatigue, feeling bullied at the workplace and being forced to work long hours of overtime on her social media.

Dentsu’s president, Tadashi Ishii, resigned as president at a board meeting, having expressed extreme regret that the company was unable to prevent the overwork of a new employee.

Unfortunately, this is not the first Dentsu employee that has been a victim of karoshi. In 2000, another 24 year old employee committed suicide due to insufferable work conditions.

The exact number of deaths related to overwork in Japan is unknown, but estimates say hundreds or possibly thousands of deaths may occur annually.

Japan’s work culture, known for its demanding workload and high rates of suicide, considers 12 hour shifts normal and has been heavily criticized for leaving workers exhausted and suicidal.

Their notoriously exhausting workweeks are a product of harder times when wages were extremely low in the 1970s. Amid Dentsu’s president’s resignation, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been campaigning for extensive reforms of the country’s employments laws, with many hoping such reforms include better oversight of overtime regulation.

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