Applications for work-related accident compensation increasing

The number of applications for work-related accident compensation is increasing in relation to karoshi (death from overwork), suicides, and mental disorders due to excessive work loads and stress, Akahata on June 26 reported.

According to the Welfare and Labor Ministry, applications for work-related accident compensation concerning suicides and mental disorders totaled 18 cases in 1996, 41 in 1997, 42 in 1998, 155 in 1999, and 212 cases in 2000. Only 19 out of the 212 cases were acknowledged as work-related suicides.

Concerning Karoshi related to cerebral and cardiac failures, there were 617 applications for social compensation in 2000, but only 85 were designated as work-related.

In 1999, the government admitted that constant long working hours are a factor in mental disorders, and eased the criteria for determining whether suicides form overwork are work-related accidents or not.

But the Labor Standards Inspection Office tends to reject applications on the grounds that applicants' mental stress loads were tolerable. Because the present criteria are based on applicants' working conditions that existed six months before they became ill, the inspection offices do not even consider the workers' stresses caused by constant long hours work.

The Ministry of Welfare and Labor will further ease the criteria.

Tamaki Kazunari, secretary of a lawyers' group working on Karoshi, said, "The number of applications for compensation for work-related accidents have increased, but the number is still small compared with the actual figure of suicides from overwork. The economic recession and corporate restructuring are behind the increase in Karoshi." (end)