Japanese workers are losing their lives to an entirely preventable condition: Karoshi. Defined as death caused by working too much, or job-related exhaustion, karoshi has become a public-health crisis that Japan can no longer ignore. With nearly 25% of the country’s employees working more than 80 hours of overtime per month, as reported by the BBC, Japan has recognized that it needs to create more work-life balance for its workforce. While Japan makes strides towards that effort, however, some worry that working conditions in the U.S. are getting worse every year.
Japanese workers are dying from working too much, and statistics show U.S. workers may soon follow suit. In fact, the U.S. workforce is one of the most overworked in the developed world. What’s more, many U.S. workers lack the protections that make work-life balance possible, such as paid parental leave. When combined with stagnated wages and shrinking benefits packages, these issues are making it more difficult for American families to work manageable hours. Will U.S. workers continue having to work more hours to make ends meet? And discover how U.S. work-life balance compares with other developed countries...
Americans are Overworked
When compared with other countries in the developed world, U.S. work conditions are far from ideal. While the U.S. Department of Labor has rules regarding overtime pay, it does not cap how many overtime hours employers can assign their employees. Many countries do cap the number of hours employees can work. South Korea recently lowered their cap from 68 hours per week to 52 hours per week.
Americans are working harder than they ever did before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, worker output has increased at a much faster rate than hours worked, which means each employee produces more work than they did in years past.
Work-Life Balance in the U.S.
Work-life balance in the U.S. is abysmal. Employers are not required to offer paid holidays and paid vacations, nor are they required to extend paid parental leave to employees. U.S. companies that do offer paid leave appear stingy when compared with their counterparts in other countries. France and the UK mandate 30 days and 28 days of paid annual leave, respectively.
More Work for Less Pay: A Concerning Trend
According to the Economic Policy Institute, wage growth has not been consistent, which has led to a wage gap of approximately $3.50 per hour. If wages had increased at a steady 3.5%, the institute argues, workers pay would have kept pace with inflation and the increased cost of living. But it hasn’t, which has resulted in lower overall labor costs for employers. Employers today spend a smaller percentage of their revenue on wages than they used to. Unfortunately, the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
If Japanese karoshi has taught us anything, it’s that too much work can drastically reduce life expectancy. And even if it doesn't kill you, it certainly decreases one's quality of life in a drastic way. All the money in the world never bought a second of time. Yes, achieving work-life balance in the current economy is difficult. However, it is vital for the health and happiness of American workers.
~ Here’s to Your Health and Wellness