A recent study found that workers at 12 percent of companies work more than 100 hours of overtime monthly and 23 percent of companies have workers putting in more than 80 hours of overtime monthly.
But they aren't supposed to.
Karoshi - death by overwork, has long been one of those things that occurs more often than it should in Japanese society.
There is an expectancy for employees to shut their damn mouth and to work...
Working In A Coal Mine
There are already laws in place restricting the number of hours an employee can work in Japan... it's just that few companies or employees seem to follow them.
In Japan... did you know that if an employee works over 40 hours a week, a company is expected to pay overtime to the employee…. unless you happen to be in a Management position.
For companies that will use overtime regularly, they have to create a written agreement between employee(s) and management - something known as “Article 36”, and submit it to the Labor Standards Inspection Office.
Here's how overtime is supposed to be limited in Japan:
Workers can only work a maximum of five hours per day.
Or… 45 hours per month.
Or 360 hours per year.
What does Overtime Pay pay?
Japan’s new Labor Law says that when employees work overtime or work on holidays, an additional payment to the hourly base salary applies:
- Overtime (anything over the standard 8-hour work day) = Additional 25%
- Night-time work (10PM-5AM) = Additional 25%
- Weekends and Holidays = Additional 35%
- Night-time (continuing from overtime)* see below = Additional 50%
- Holiday (continuing from night-time)** see below = Additional 60%
The employee worked from 9AM to 11PM, and therefore worked overtime from 6PM -11PM.
The employee’s additional overtime payment will be base salary x 1.25 x 4 hours (6PM-10PM) plus base salary x 1.5 x 1 hour (10PM – 11PM).
** Example: The employee’s normal working hours are from 9AM - 6PM.
The employee worked overtime from Friday 9AM to Saturday 5AM.
The employee’s additional overtime payment will be base salary x 1.25 x 4 hours (6PM – 10PM) plus base salary x 1.5 x 2 hours (10PM – 12AM) plus base salary x 1.6 x 5 hours (12AM – 5AM).
The idea is based on some dumb bastich working for 20 hours straight. So, yeah… you get paid, but you can still die from exhaustion.
It’s all very interesting right? At least Japanese workers are getting paid for their work.
However, it’s all kindda crap.
While the system in place might be great for a factory worker, it doesn’t work for the office worker.
The office worker is always some dumb idiot, like myself, who does not have an hourly wage, but has a fixed income salary.
While this can be a good thing, it can also be a bad thing.
For example, I spent five hours last Sunday essentially working for free, because as a salary worker, I don’t get compensated for any additional work hours I put in. I get paid to do the job.
This is the problem with Japan and its salary workers…. and please note this includes the guy from the lowest level to the guys in the highest of management.
Now… I did my work voluntarily. I do this every once in a while to catch up or to get ahead. Kind of what I do when I'm blogging.
Over the winter vacation (Christmas) I wrote something like eight blogs for my Pioneers of Aviation blog... posting one every week... until this past Tuesday when I simply ran out of energy, as each of those postings takes up to 10 hours to complete... a fair amount when I also post a Rife blog every day... sometimes twice a day. Or... when I'm so tired accidentally post one at 12 Noon rather than 12 midnight like I did earlier this week. D'oh!
At no time was there any expectation for me to have done this extra work outside my usual work day schedule. I was just trying to get ahead of the game…. not play catch-up… though I’m sure many of you have done that as well.
For the Japanese office worker… there is no such thing as overtime, because for all of these salaried workers, this is unpaid overtime… hours of time that employees “volunteer” to perform.
Of course, those so-called extra hours do NOT consider hours an employee could have spent during the work day fast asleep.
Yes, it is not frowned upon to be seen taking a nap at hour desk for an hour or two… so “working“ an hour or two past the normal quittin’ time is just the usual making up of hours.
Now… some people actually do real work when they do this un-paid overtime.
Basically, employees sit and work at their office desk because their bosses sit and work at their office desk, and their bosses sit and work at their office desk, and so on and so on.
The low rank or no title staff (hira shain) will wait for his senior (senpai or shunin) to leave first, and this "senpai" wait for the kacho (head of the section), the "kacho" wait for the bucho (the manager or general manager), and so on.
The main “problem” with this… and this is something I have personally observed, the Japanese big boss who owns the company or his the head of a school board, rather than doing any work himself (you delegate!) he has either fallen asleep at his desk, or has snuck out the backdoor to some club to meet up with his mistress.
In Japan, it’s bad form to leave a place of business before the boss… so much so that even dumb gaijin like myself utter the standard formal good night greeting: “Otsukare sama deshita (お疲れ様でした)”, which means, quite literally that “I have exhausted myself.”
Now… let;’s suppose the big boss has left, and his immediate subordinate has left and his subordinates, and then your manager… there’s still the problem of your co-workers… no one really wants to be seen as weak, so they sit at their office desk and either do real work or pretend they are working until finally some weakling destroys team karma by packing up and uttering: “Osakini sitsurei shimasu (お先に失礼します)” which translates into “forgive my poor manners for leaving before you.”
This ain’t no simple act of companies abusing its staff… no… this is a cultural marker that has existed long enough to become an integral aspect of Japanese culture.
Everyone in Japan knows how to say those phrases… Every night I left work in Japan—I’m a gaijin (foreigner) so I didn’t care to work unpaid overtime), I would say “Osakini sitsurei shimasu.”
And because I was a gaijin, they would forgive me and say simply “Oyasumi nasai” which means “good night.”
But the rest of my poor Japanese compatriot salary people... they stayed at work... and stayed and stayed until the big boss left, followed by all the other bosses under him... which is why the un-paid overtime hours for the salary man add up.
As such… my point in all of this is that you can effin’ legislate all you want—and yeah, some people are smart enough and comfortable enough, to say quitting time is quitting time… but the vast majority of Japan’s working force will NOT participate… simply because there is the beat-in aspect of not wanting to look weak in front of the co-workers… the co-worker whom you are supposed to work alongside… whose respect and admiration you hope he shares the same way he shares it towards you.
Still... if you are a factory worker making an hourly wage - you might not mind this overtime change.
For the salary man, over time, nothing will have changed.