Toyota workers die building safe carsChris Walters 7 comments
Go to school, study hard, get into university, get a good job, work hard and start a family. That’s what my grandmother always said to me when I was young. I followed it to a T except for that work hard bit.
I’m sure this advice has been handed down from generation to generation around the world.
Since the 80’s, if you ask anybody about their impressions of the Japanese, the stereotypical response would be that he/she is rich, is really smart, works hard and loves taking photos.
I still believe this stereotype is alive and well today…but there’s only a problem of balance.
As you may or may not know Japan is facing an employment and social crisis as its percentage of “gray” people (retired or about the retire) is the highest in the world and their population is on a downward slide to oblivion. However, adding fuel to this problem is good ole grandmas advice…work hard. Apparently, the Japanese in the 34-45 age group are working so hard, that work related death is spiralling out of control. Even to the point where is has its own special word, “Karoshi, death from overwork”.
When I first heard of this word it was like the proverbial urban myth, heard or read about but never actually experienced. However, after I returned from my honeymoon, I asked one of my co-workers about one Mr. X. I was totally shocked to hear that he died at his desk! He was typing away then next thing curled over, fell on the floor and adios amigos*
Guess he could go home early for a change!
But the Government has said that determining the actual number of Karoshi deaths has been difficult to determine. Labor lawyers count them in tens of thousands, but Government sources argue that it’s almost impossible to definitively establish whether the heart attack, brain hemorhage or, increasingly, suicide that is generally the official cause of death is ultimately the result of too much overwork?
That’s a fair point. If you’ve ever been to Japan you will see that the sex industry is huge! Catering to almost every imaginable fetish know to man, and then some. Dress up maid, nurse, school girl, teacher clubs, bondage, hostess bars, “bath” shops just to name a few. So what’s to say, a guy with a weak heart could have been at the strippers all night with colleagues after bonus day…I know my heart would take a good workout…among other things.
But there are other positive side effects for working too hard. For example, growing your own vegetables…what the hell does this have to do with anything? Well, it was reported that a graphic designer, 34 was so busy during the week that on Sundays all she did was lie around on the futon, swallowing wine from the bottle and eating convenience store snacks.
One day, she found a fungus-like substance growing around her futon, similar to that of forest mushrooms surrounding a tree.
Those things are huge if you’ve ever seen one. How could you possible miss something the size of a teacup saucer growing out of the side of your mattress, not to mention the smell. But I heard it tasted good. Last I heard she was planning a dinner party for a select group of friends to feast on “locally” grown organic mushrooms.
With keeping it in the family, her boyfriend (architect, 34, never sleeps before 4 a.m.) and kept having to buy his underwear at various convenience stores because he couldn't find time to do the laundry. One day, an avalanche of socks and T-shirts came crashing down as he slept, nearly suffocating him.
Firstly, I want to know where he stores his dirty laundry, because it is usually in a) a basket, b) the washing machine, or c) on the floor. So given that it came crashing down on him it could only have been stuck to the roof or in a pile reminiscent of Mount Fuji that erupted without warning. That, I would have loved to see. If he died, I wonder what the Government would officially write as the cause of death. Obviously not karoshi because he was at home lying on his lazy ass! Maybe asphyxiation by killer mushrooms found growing out of his dirty underwear. That’s definitely a more plausible reason don’t you think!?
I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that Toyota, one of the world’s most famous companies renowned for being a safe, green and environmental champion in a car industry has also been drawn into the karoshi debate. Between 1991 and 2005, Toyota’s annual production per worker rose from 41.9 vehicles to 58.7. In 2005 alone, 67 workers succumbed to karoshi; and 247 were absent for three months or more. 67! Dude, that’s like half the population of the town I come from. Wake up and smell the death, I mean roses. You got a problem there.
One guy, Kenichi Uchino joined Toyota in 1989. He was a quality control engineer. During the last 30 days of his life -- he died in February of a heart attack at age 30 (my condolences to his family, 30, what a waste) -- he reportedly worked 144 hours of overtime. The Nagoya District Court is currently considering whether his death is work-related.
My question is, if a guy does nothing but work, why is there a need to consider the cause of death. It’s like seeing a dead person under a car and saying “Gee! I wonder what the cause of death could be? We’d better investigate”.
So the moral of the story is: Don’t work hard! Your company can and will replace you…your friends and family can’t.
* This person was well over the 35-45 age bracket and actually didn’t work hard.