One-third of major firms have workers who do at least 100 hours overtime a month

One-third of major firms in Japan employ workers who are putting in 100 hours or more of overtime work a month, a survey by the Central Labor Relations Commission has found.

The survey, which comes as the government is pushing for the introduction of a “white-collar exemption” system to exempt salaried workers from regular working hours and abolish overtime pay, puts the spotlight on long working hours at Japanese companies.

The commission conducts surveys on wages every year. Every other year, it conducts surveys on the amount of time employees spend working. The latest survey, conducted in 2006, is the first to ask companies if any of their employees are doing 100 hours or more of overtime work each month.

Questioned in the survey were 373 firms employing 1,000 or more workers and having capital of at least 500 million yen. Responses were received from 247 firms.

The results showed that as of June 2006, a total of 33.2 percent of firms employed at least one worker who put in 100 hours or more of overtime each month. The average amount of time each worker put in a year, excluding overtime, stood at 1,881 hours, 54 minutes — a figure that remained practically unchanged compared with the previous survey.

The average wage revision resulting from regular wage hikes and raises reached 6,275 yen, an increase of 280 yen compared with the previous year. The average monthly wage fell 1,500 yen compared with the previous survey to 377,300 yen. However, monthly overtime pay rose 6,300 yen to hit 69,500 yen.

Workers who do 80 hours or more of overtime a month are considered to be at risk of dying from overwork. A standard for paying workers’ compensation due to death from overwork is acknowledging that the worker has performed 100 hours or more of overtime in the month immediately prior to his or her death. Performing 80 hours or more over overtime a month is accepted as a standard for diagnosing depression caused by excessive work.