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Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium worker’s suicide due to overwork, claims family

The 23-year-old construction worker hired to build the new National Stadium, committed suicide in March.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium worker’s suicide due to overwork, claims family

The parents of a young construction worker at Tokyo’s Olympic stadium claim that he committed suicide after developing depression from exhaustion.

His family filed a petition with Tokyo labor standards inspection office to certify the death as karoshi, which can be translated as "death by overwork".

In February, the 23-year-old man was found to have worked 200 hours of overtime, while he did 94 in December and 142.5 in January.

In Japan, there is a 'karoshi' danger line of 80 hours of overtime per month. Surpassing this limit could lead to developing mental illness.

Family demand compensation

Claiming their son’s suicide was induced by excessive overtime, the parents of the late construction worker have applied for a compensation.

According to a testimony made by the worker’s mother, he often woke up at 4:30 a.m. and returned home at 1:00 a.m.

She also mentioned that her son once told her that the machinery was "not in good condition" and that there was lots of pressure at the site to ensure that the stadium would be completed in time for the Olympics.

Japan’s Labor Standards officially recognises two types of 'karoshi': cardiovascular illness linked to overwork, and suicide following mental stress related to work. In both cases, the family of the deceased can apply for compensation.

“I’m taking a day off”

In April 2016, after graduating from university, the late construction worker joined a civil engineering company in Tokyo. He was put in charge of foundation improvement at the new National Stadium.

Several delays in the project fed pressure to meet the deadlines.

On 2 March, due to the overwhelming pressure, the deceased construction worker took a day off. A month later, his body, along with a suicide note, was found in the Nagano Prefecture, central Japan.

A spokesman of Taisei Corp, the main contractor for the National Stadium, said that the firm responsible for labor management will be strictly instructed to adhere to the law.

"We as the consortium leader are calling on our subcontractors to comply with the law."

14 months behind schedule

Pressure is high to complete the National Stadium, the centerpiece of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, after the sudden scrapping of original plans in July 2015 delayed the beginning of the construction for almost a year.

The project is about 14 months behind schedule, with the Japan Sport Council demanding the stadium be completed at a faster pace.

"People's lives and health must not be ruined during the preparations for the 2020 Games. The fact that it is a national event is no excuse whatsoever," said Hiroshi Kawahito, the lawyer of the deceased construction worker’s parents.


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