Working-style reform for doctors started this month in Japan, introducing maximum limits on their work hours, a policy that had been effectively absent in the past.

Under the new regulations, hospital doctors are restricted in principle to working 960 hours or less annually. An exception allows doctors engaged in emergency and community medical services, where extended work hours are often unavoidable, to work up to a maximum of 1,860 hours per year.

Medical services in Japan have historically relied to some extent on the self-sacrifice of doctors. According to estimates from a research team at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, nearly 40% of hospital doctors exceeded 960 hours of overtime and holiday work in 2019, averaging around 80 hours per month, considered a threshold that can be linked to overwork-related deaths. Additionally, about 10% worked more than 1,860 hours annually.