Stop the stressful way workers are forced to work! -- Akahata editorial, September 5

"Mental illness" including mental disorders caused by excessive fatigue and stress in the workplace is increasing. The "white paper on industrialists' mental health" shows that in a survey 58 percent of companies answered mental illness is "on the increase", as compared to the 49 percent in the previous survey.

Those in their 30's are suffering most from "mental illness", mainly depression. As a growing number of people kill themselves due to overwork, the number of applications for compensation under the Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance system totaled 325 cases in the last three years.

Many workers, including young people who should have futures full of promise, are unable to achieve their full potential because of illness. This is not only an individual misfortune, but a big loss for society. It is necessary to immediately strengthen "mental health care".

Behind is excessive workload

A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry panel on excessive workloads and mental health recently published a report pointing out, "mental health is largely affected by excessive working hours." It proposes that if accumulated fatigue increases the risk of causing mental illness, the company should ask a doctor to interview workers to give them advice, while taking appropriate measures such as shortening working hours and providing employees with time to have sufficient rest.

All this should be taken for granted. But words alone are not enough. The need now is to put an end to the inhumane ways in which workers are forced to work, eliminating the cause of the increase in the number of people who suffer from "mental illness".

In particular, larger corporations are maintaining the profits-come-first policy to promote corporate restructuring, encourage competition among employees, impose heavier workloads, and force workers into longer workdays. With unstable employment continuing to increase, full-time workers increasingly come under the pressure of becoming targets of corporate restructuring.

The introduction of the "performance-based salary system" makes employees compete with each other, destroys human relations in the workplace, and allows an emergence of insidious bullying. Under such circumstances, tiredness, stress, and anxieties are dramatically increasing.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has pointed out that workers' mental health in workplaces is in a state of crisis. In Japan, excessive workloads are imposed on workers in disregard of human rights, thus making the problem of "mental" illness more serious, as evidenced by an increase in cases of karoshi (death from overwork) and work-related suicides.

Do corporations have a future when they seek quick profits at the cost of workers' health and their lives, treating workers as disposables? If workers are overtired and suffer from workplace stress, resulting in a lack of interest in work or a state of depression, corporate productivity will drop.

Only when workers are treated with respect and can maintain their health and vigor can corporations and industries achieve a sound development.

Corporations have the minimum responsibility of preventing health hazards by reducing overtime work and guaranteeing the workers' rest, including annual paid holidays. They have the duty to provide safety for workers and social responsibility in offering a decent work environment in which workers can work without destroying their health.

The problem is that the HL&W report regards "mental health care" as a matter to be dealt with by corporate management and trade unions. The role of the government is limited to supplying information to help companies take proper measures. Will such measures be really effective when corporations are given a free hand?

State must fulfill its responsibility for workers' health

In the name of offering workers diversified work styles, the government many times adversely revised the labor laws, forcing workers to work without legal limits under the guise of "discretionary work" and to take more unstable jobs than ever. This labor market deregulation must be fundamentally reviewed because it is the opposite of keeping workers' mental health.

The need now is to stop the extraordinary long hours of overtime work and excessive workloads detrimental to mental health and the corporate rule over workplaces prevailing in violation of human rights of workers. To this end, it is necessary to force the government to force corporations fulfill their duty to protect workers' lives and health.

We demand that the government make serious efforts to defend workers' mental health and create decent workplaces. (end)

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