Suicide of Young Dentsu Employee in Japan Linked to Overwork, Reports Say

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Labor inspectors in Tokyo have ruled that the suicide last year of a young hire at Japanese ad giant Dentsu was caused by overwork, local news reports said.

Matsuri Takahashi, 24, jumped from the window of her corporate dormitory on Dec. 25, The Japan Times reported.

The young staffer reportedly worked in digital accounts; Dentsu's digital advertising division was recently the focus of an overbilling scandal.

At a news conference Friday, Ms. Takahashi's family and their lawyers said Tokyo's Mita Labor Standards Inspection Office had deemed her suicide a case of "karoshi," a Japanese word that means "death by overwork," The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported online. A spokesperson for Dentsu said the company was discussing the case with the young woman's family and declined to comment further.

Ms. Takahashi started working at the company in April 2015, soon after graduating from the University of Tokyo, reports said. In one month starting Oct. 9, she worked 105 hours of overtime, The Asahi Shimbun reported. She also reportedly went on social media to share her feelings of desperation. The decision from the labor board means her family can be paid compensation from a government insurance fund for workers' accidents.

The Japanese ad giant, the fifth-biggest agency company in the world, acknowledged last month that it had overcharged clients by $2.3 million for digital work in Japan. Dentsu said 111 clients were affected by "inappropriate operations," which it said were likely errors by employees who had too little time for too much work.

Overtime and "death by overwork" are big issues in Japan across a broad range of industries. A major government white paper released last week said that about 23% of companies had some employees doing more than 80 hours of overtime a month.

A suicide by a Dentsu staffer in the 1990s drew attention to the problem of work-related deaths in Japan. In 2000, the ad giant settled a lawsuit by agreeing to pay $1.6 million in damages to the family of Ichiro Oshima, 24, who killed himself in 1991. The country's Supreme Court had said overwork was to blame.

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