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Worked to Death

Miwa Sado, a reporter for NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, “died in the line of duty and her body was found with her mobile phone still clasped in her hand.” Doctors soon established that Miwa Sado died as a result of congenital heart failure. But following an investigation by Japan’s Ministry of Labor, the official cause of here death was changed to “karoshi”: death by overwork.

In the month preceding her death, Sado had clocked an exhausting 159 hours of official overtime. That was equivalent to working two full eight-hour shifts every weekday over a four-week period. Unofficially, the number of hours of overtime probably exceeded that.

For the last few decades, the world has watched as China became the world’s largest producer and exporter of manufactured goods. But one of the unintended consequences of this has been a surge in the number of people whose deaths have been attributed to overwork. In 2016, CCTV, the state broadcaster, which usually only resorts to hyperbole when they have good news to share, announced that more than half a million Chinese citizens die from overworking every year.

Many in China’s high technology sector now order their working lives according to the mantra “996.” The two 9s refer to the requirements to put in twelve-hour days, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the 6 refers to the six days of the week that employees with ambitions to get anywhere are expected to be at their workstations.

Possible Preaching Angle:

There are so many people who overwork their entire lives. They may not suddenly die as poor Miwa did, but over the course of their lives, they do eventually work themselves “into” death by fixating on the wrong goal, and putting temporary gains over eternal rewards.

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