Overwork and sleep deprivation are taking a hit on the world’s third largest economy.
The number of Japanese people who get less than six hours of sleep has been on the rise in recent years, approaching 40 percent in 2015, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. Roughly half of full-time workers say they are not sleep-deprived, a government white paper on deaths from overwork revealed, according to Bloomberg.
A RAND Corporation study of five countries — the U.S., Japan, Canada, Germany, and the U.K. — determined that Japan’s stressful work culture is resulting in annual economic losses of $138 billion, 2.92 percent of its GDP. The recent study claims that a minor change from less than six hours of sleep to somewhere between six and seven hours of sleep could inject $75.7 billion back into the economy.
The U.S. loses $411 billion, 2.28 percent of its GDP, each year due to lack of sleep. As a percentage of its GDP, Japan loses more than some of the other countries studied.
Sleep deprivation results in lower productivity, which translates to a loss of valuable work days. Japan loses an estimated 600,000 work days each year. For the U.S., that figure is around 1.2 million.
Late last year, Japan began taking “karoshi” — death by overwork — seriously after it came out that 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide in December, 2015, due to overwhelming stress from her job at Dentsu, where she once logged 105 hours of overtime in just one month.
Japan denied the negative effects of overwork for decades, but times are changing.
The Japanese government plans to invest $3.5 million in an incentives program to push small-and medium-sized enterprises to adopt minimum rest periods for workers. Only 2 percent of approximately 1,700 companies investigated by the government last year had minimum rest requirements.
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