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Local governments push ‘karoshi’ bill

Kyodo

More than 100 prefectural and municipal assemblies across Japan are backing a bill now in the Diet that is aimed at preventing “karoshi” (death from overwork) and suicide caused by overwork.

The bill stipulates that the country as a whole is responsible for such deaths, and the assemblies are urging its passage during this legislative session as “people shouldn’t be dying because of their work.”

Karoshi is defined as death caused by health problems linked to excessive physical or mental burdens from work.

According to a Kyodo News survey and information provided by a group comprised of families of karoshi victims and lawyers, at least 100 municipal assemblies have submitted opinions favoring the bill.

The assemblies include those of Hokkaido, Miyagi, Hyogo and seven other prefectures, as well as the cities of Nagoya and Kitakyushu. Statements from them include multiple calls for the central government to issue a declarative statement condemning the factors that cause karoshi and overwork-induced suicide.

Many also urge the central government to clarify its responsibilities as well as those of prefectural and local governments, and companies, to protect workers’ health.

Meanwhile, some of the assemblies are demanding the government conduct research and develop comprehensive measures to prevent karoshi.

In Shimane Prefecture, the prefectural assembly and nearly all of its 18 municipal assemblies have submitted written opinions as a result of efforts by a former member of the Hamada Municipal Assembly. Kazuo Miura, 61, has lobbied for the bill at all of the assemblies.

In 2006, when Miura was still on the Hamada assembly, relatives of a city official who committed suicide asked him to help them apply for compensation insurance. A diary and notes discovered at his home suggested that the man, who suffered from depression, had been bullied by his boss.

The insurance firm rejected the initial claim that the man’s death was related to his duties, his relatives were eventually awarded the compensation money after a four-year battle.

Miura stresses that karoshi also hurts the relatives of the victims. He started his efforts in 2012 after attending a gathering in Tokyo in which families of karoshi victims called for a new law to prevent death form overwork.

As both the ruling and opposition parties have agreed on the draft of the bill, it is likely to be passed before the Diet session ends on June 22.