The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has decided to shorten the period for acknowledging death or suicide from overwork to a maximum of six months after relatives apply for workers’ compensation, ministry sources said Sunday.

It is the first time the labor ministry has come up with such a target, and it will be included in policies for fiscal 2004, which started Thursday.

The sources said the target aims to give relatives early redemption, as the number of applications linked to death from overwork, or “karoshi,” is increasing due to the prolonged economic slump and the high unemployment rate.

According to the ministry, it took an average of 11 months for labor standard inspection offices nationwide in fiscal 2002 through March 2003 to determine whether to acknowledge a case as death or debilitating illness resulting from overwork.

Cases of suicide or attempted suicide linked to overwork took an average of 14 months.

The ministry has ordered labor standards offices to employ effective measures to shorten the period, such as drawing up an investigation plan before actually starting to investigate a case, according to the sources.

In fiscal 2002, there were 819 applications regarding death involving brain disorders and heart disease caused by overwork, up from 690 the previous year, among which a record 317 cases were acknowledged, according to ministry findings.

The number of acknowledged cases more than doubled from the previous year, it has reported.

There were 112 applications regarding suicide and attempted suicide linked to overwork, up by 20 from the previous year, among which 43 cases, up 12, were acknowledged.

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