Japan seeks to prevent deaths from overwork

ABC News, 26 January 2000

TOKYO, Jan 26 (Reuters)—Japan said on Wednesday it would introduce a new medical insurance scheme to help prevent karoshi or death from overwork.

Under the plan prepared by the Labour Ministry, people who show critical symptoms in four categories—obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high blood lipids—will be able to have medical examinations free of charge.

Those with all four symptoms are about 35 times more at risk of dying from overwork than those without, a ministry official said, adding the ministry hoped the new system would encourage people to get medical exams that would help prevent karoshi.

Some 90 people died from overwork in 1998, the last year for which data was available, up from 32 in 1994.

Such deaths are often covered by workers' compensation paid to the deceased's family.

The ministry plans to seek parliamentary approval for the plan during the current session and implement the legislation in April 2001.