A Labor Standards Inspection Office in Tokyo has ruled that a 23-year old Tradie's suicide earlier this year was caused by the long work hours he was putting in at the main venue of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Japan recognizes two kinds of "karoshi", or death by overwork: Cardiovascular illness linked to overwork; and suicide following mental stress related to work. 


Work on the new Tokyo National Stadium had been delayed because of controversy over the construction cost of the first design; it was eventually scrapped and a more cost effective plan was approved.  But that meant a late start in building it, and work at the site has been very intense. 

New Tokyo National Stadium, Shinjuku, Tokyo

The young man had been on the job site only since December 2016; The Shinjuku Labor Standards Inspection Office investigated and determined that the tradie put in 190 hours and 18 minutes of overtime in the month before he called in sick and disappeared.  Japan considers 80 hours of overtime in a month enough to cause karoshi.

The tradie's body was found in the mountains of central Japan weeks later, along with a suicide note saying he was "physically and mentally pushed to the limit".  In July, his parents petitioned the government to recognize his death as "karoshi", and officials quickly agreed his inhuman workload was responsible for causing him to develop mental illness. 

"We are relieved to see our son's hard work recognized," his parents said in a statement, "We sincerely hope that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held safely."

His employer said the company "is deeply remorseful and will make every effort to improve its work environment".

Last month, Tokyo labor officials investigated nearly 800 subcontractors on the Olympic site and found illegal overwork at nearly 40 companies.  Workers at 18 companies put in overtime exceeding 80 hours per month, and several of them exceeding 150 hours.

Construction has the highest rate of karoshi deaths in Japan.  But the problem hits all sectors:  Last week, inspectors ruled that a young NHK reporter's death was due to overwork; and last year, the head of the country's biggest advertising agency stepped down after a female worker killed herself after working long hours.