National / Social Issues

2016 suicide of Nomura Real Estate worker said caused by overwork under discretionary labor system


A local labor standard office has concluded that the suicide of a worker in his 50s at Nomura Real Estate Development Co. in 2016 was caused by overwork, sources close to the matter said Sunday.

Although the real estate firm applied the discretionary system, rewarding workers based on fixed overtime work hours instead of actual hours worked, to around 600 workers, including the man, many of them were engaged in business operations that are not supposed to be treated under such a working style.

The discretionary system is allowed to be applied to workers engaging in two types of work — the specific specialty type, such as lawyers and reporters, and the management planning type, including those who engage in surveys and analysis.

The work-related suicide is likely to deal a further blow to the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as it has already come under fire over its labor reforms bill. Abe was forced to drop expansion of the discretionary labor system from the planned bill on Thursday amid strong opposition following the revelation of flawed data relating to overwork.

The latest case of karȱshi (death by overwork) is likely to fuel criticism of the Abe government’s proposal to expand the discretionary labor system to more types of jobs.

According to the sources, the male worker at Nomura Real Estate Development committed suicide in September 2016. After his death, his family claimed worker’s compensation.

The local labor office found that the man’s overtime reached 180 hours in a month and concluded last December that his death was work-related.

After the company was found to have problematic working practices, the labor authorities asked its president to improve conditions.

Nomura Real Estate Development said it will scrap the discretionary labor system in April.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is asking some 13,000 workplaces throughout the country to conduct checks on whether the discretionary labor system is properly managed.

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