A labour standards inspection office has acknowledged that workplace pressure contributed to the suicide of a female Dentsu staff member last December, according to reports in the Japanese media.
The employee, Matsuri Takahashi, a graduate of Tokyo University, was reportedly 24 years old and had joined the company in April 2015. It is understood that her overtime hours ranged from 70 to 130 per month, and that she sometimes slept no more then 10 hours in a week.
The employee’s mother has called for improvements to be made to Japan’s labour management system to prevent similar incidents happening in the future. Dentsu said it is taking the matter seriously but did not provide further comment.
Japan is notorious for its culture of long working hours. A recent government report into karoshi (death from overwork) found employees at nearly a quarter of companies in Japan log more than 80 hours of overtime per month. Almost 12 percent of companies reported staff working more than 100 extra monthly hours. But while advertising and public relations are undoubtedly high pressure industries, IT companies were found to have the highest rates of overtime.
This case involving Dentsu is far from unique. The advertising and marketing industry is regularly criticised globally for putting unreasonable demands on its workers. In 2013, young employees at Y&R in Indonesia and Ogilvy Public Relations in Beijing both collapsed and died apparently as a result of an unmanageable workload.