ESRI Discussion Paper Series No.325
Working Hours and KAROSHI Risk Assessment

Akiko Kamesaka
Professor, School of Business Administration, Aoyama Gakuin University.
Visiting Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Cabinet Office, Government of Japan.
Teruyuki Tamura
Research Associate, School of Economics and Management, Kochi University of Technology.


In November 2014, the “Act to Accelerate Moves for the Prevention of Karoshi” was enforced, making the prevention of karoshi (death from overwork) an urgent issue in Japan. This study uses the 2012 Household Survey on the Quality of Life to analyze the impact work hours have had on anxiety about death associated from working long hours. It finds that anxiety significantly increased for men who worked more than 60 hours and for women who worked more than 45 hours per week. These results regarding the impact of working hours on anxiety about death from overworking in Japan are robust and statistically significant.

For the purpose of improving the situation, policy discussions propose either the use of indirect regulation, primarily in the form overtime wage rates or the use of direct regulation, primarily in the form of an upper limit on working hours. Although some indirect regulation has been implemented, it has failed to bring about a reduction in work hours. The empirical results of this paper confirm this pattern and suggest that a government imposed limit on work hours is needed. The analysis further suggests that other policies be implemented on account of the diversity in labor market outcomes. These include: the appropriate management of working hours; sex-specific work hour limits that reflect important work hour differences between men and women; corrective action toward a single-track career path leaning toward the hiring of new graduates; flexible work style catering to various stages in life; and promotion of a societal view where all members are positively motivated to work.

Structure of the whole text(PDF-Format 1 File)

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  2. 1ページ
  3. 2ページ
    1. Introduction
  4. 4ページ
    2. Prior research
    1. 4ページ
      1. Impact of long working hours on health
      1. 4ページ
        1.1. Epidemiological studies
      2. 6ページ
        1.2. Studies using mental health indexes
    2. 7ページ
      2. Theoretical Justifications for Government Set Limits on Work Hours
    3. 7ページ
      3. Regulation of work hours across countries
      1. 7ページ
        3.1. The 36 Agreement in Japan
      2. 8ページ
        3.2. Working hour regulations in Western countries
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    3. Data and analysis target variables
  6. 10ページ
    Arrangement of various variables
  7. 11ページ
    4. Estimation results
  8. 15ページ
    5. Summary and future outlook
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    Figure 1. Ratio of employees whose weekly work hours are 60 hours or more
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    Figure 2. Ratio by age of men whose weekly working hours are 60 hours or longer
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    Figure 3. Industrial accident compensation status in the past 10 years for brain/heart diseases (cases of “karoshi,” etc.)
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    Figure 4. Correlation between anxiety toward karoshi and suicidal ideation
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    Figure 5. Working hours and anxiety toward karoshi
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    Table 1. Distribution by gender of “anxiety toward karoshi
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    Table 2. Descriptive statistics
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    Table 3. Estimated results: Male samples
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    Table 4. Estimated results: Female samples
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    Table 5 Estimated results: Female samples (Subsamples: With or without children)
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    Table 6. Estimated results Male samples (Consideration of the improvement status of work-life balance in the workplace)
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    Table 7. Estimated results: Female samples: (Consideration of the improvement status of workplace work-life balance in the workplace)
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