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NHK reveals death of female reporter in 2013 was due to overwork

Miwa Sado
Miwa Sado (TV Asahi)

TOKYO (TR) – Public broadcaster NHK revealed on Wednesday that the death of a 31-year-old female reporter four years ago had been determined by a labor standards office as due to overwork, a case that highlights continuing difficulties with excessive working hours in workplaces.

In May of 2014, a labor standards office in Shibuya Ward determined that Miwa Sado worked 159 hours of overtime in the one-month period prior to her death in July of 2013 due to congestive heart failure.

Sado covered the Tokyo metropolitan government. In June and July of 2013, she provided coverage for the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election and the House of Councillors election, which took place three days before her death on July 24.

In a statement, NHK acknowledged the case as being a matter of karoshi, or death due to overwork. “With this in mind, we are working on reforming our working styles, including reviewing the work procedures for reporters, and we will further seek to secure the health of our staff,” the network said.

In 2005, Sado joined NHK in its bureau in Kagoshima Prefecture. She moved to the broadcaster’s headquarters in Tokyo five years later.

“Even now, after four years have passed, we can not accept daughter’s death from overwork as a reality,” Sado’s parents said in a statement. “We would like you to do our utmost to prevent a recurrence in ensuring that our sorrow as the bereaved family is not wasted.”

Dentsu case

Since the suicide of a female employee at advertising firm Dentsu in 2015 was determined as having been due to excessive working hours, the government has been attempting to improve working conditions at workplaces.

On December 25, 2015, Matsuri Takahashi, 24, jumped to her death from her dormitory. In October of last year, the family revealed that the Tokyo Labor Bureau found that records showing she clocked 130 hours of overtime in October and 99 hours in November with constant late nights and work on what should have been her days off.