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China overtakes Japan in Karoshi count, causing concerns

The latest statistics show that the overwhelming work pressure is taking about 600,000 Chinese lives every year, making China the No. 1 country with Karoshi, surpassing Japan, according to a report on People's Daily. On Weibo, the twitter-like microblogging platform, many Chinese expressed concerns they might be the next one to bite the dust under the “mountainous” work load and life pressure.

The Chinese are getting crushed by overtime work(加班). Photo:

Karoshi, a Japanese word meaning “death from overwork” (Guolaosi 过劳死in Chinese), is now one of the buzz words on Weibo where several cases of Karoshi have been put in the spotlight in the past two months, including the deaths of an Internet novelist who died in his rented room, a 23-year-old man from Anhui who died after a 12-hour shift in extremely hot weather, and a 24-year-old office worker at Ogilvy China who died after a month of working extra hours.

The medical causes for the sudden deaths are usually heart attack and stroke induced by stress. According to reports, China is the country with the longest working hour and with it, the highest work pressure in the world, worse than Japan and South Korea, the two Asian countries known for high work pressure.

The death of the 24-year-old @小铮头没头脑 on May 13 who worked at Ogilvy China's Beijing office saddened many Weibo users. "Many envied him for his ability, knowledge and job, but few understood the agony beneath all that." lamented one of his friends. Photo:

What is deeply worrying is that young people, particularly the so-called post-1980s and 90s generation, seem to be bearing the brunt of the Karoshi attack. For the young Chinese who come from a working class background, there is no other choice but to work long and hard hours to be able to pay the bills in today's China. With the Chinese economy cooling down, problems such as slow income growth, limited promotion opportunities and gloomy job market are all worsening, further complicating the already harsh situation.

Unlike Japan where Karoshi is listed as a cause of death since the 1980s and confirmed Karoshi victims can get high compensations, the Chinese labor and social security system has not yet incorporated Karoshi and the Chinese legal system does not recognize the problem. Although the Chinese Labor Law sets the legal working hour to be “no more than 44 hours per week”, in reality it is often neglected by the employers who can easily circumvent the rules due to the slack supervision from the related labor authorities.

On Weibo, many Chinese expressed their concerns and anger. @五月甜屋 said, “Other than the public workers, who else in China is not forever under the threat of Karoshi?” @千金小宝 complained, “Those who do not have a job worry themselves to death, and those who do, work themselves to death. What is wrong with this society?”

However there are people who have different views, just as this weibo user pointed out, “Poor health must be an important reason behind the death from working 12 hours a day... Who’s paying attention to the poor physical fitness of this nation’s young people?”

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