37% of 24,042 companies in Japan breached overtime laws

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare found that 37% of 24,042 businesses investigated have violated overtime laws.
By: | August 30, 2021

The investigation, which was conducted in the last fiscal year, showed that these companies had employees working 45 hours or more per month in overtime. 

Japan officially adopted a 40-hour work week in 1987 and hours work beyond that is considered overtime. 

Labour laws in the country generally limit overtime to 45 hours a month. However, if a business is undergoing extraordinary circumstances and its employees agree to work more overtime, they can be granted permission to work up to 80 hours of overtime per month based on the average of several months.  

Out of the 8,904 workplaces where overtime was confirmed, 33.5% or 2,982 companies had cases of staff working more than 80 hours of overtime per month. Another 7.8% or 1,878 of these workplaces saw employees putting in 100 hours of overtime per month. 

READ: Some 90% of Japanese firms struggle with remote work

The ministry also confirmed that at least 93 companies had employees working 200 hours of overtime a month. Employers found to violate the laws could face up to six months imprisonment or fines of up to ¥300,000 (US$2,725). 

The phenomenon of overwork in Japan is so common that the country has a term for it – karoshi, literally “death by overwork”, according to Insider.