A little over a third of Japanese career women with mental health issues say their suffering was caused by some form of harassment at work, according to a government survey published Tuesday.
Japan remains a male-dominated society and discrimination against women in the workplace is rife. The country is ranked 110 out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest global gender gap index.
The country also ranks bottom among the G7 countries for gender equality, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge to empower working women through a policy called “womenomics.”i
The survey was carried out by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on a sample of 2,374 people suffering from mental health issues who were identified between January 2010 and March 2017.
Of the 740 women who took part, 19.7% said they were victims of sexual harassment and 16.6% of harassment, bullying and abuse of power by superiors. Another 21.9% of the women said their mental health issues were caused by a traumatic event, such as witnessing a serious accident or a natural disaster.
The survey was published as part of a government white paper on the prevention of death by overwork. Japan, known for its “salaryman” culture and punishing work hours, has struggled for years to tackle the impact of overwork on employees’ health. Excessive hours are such a big problem that there’s even a Japanese word for death by overwork: karoshi.
Among the 1,634 men surveyed, work related problems also topped the list. Some 23.1% said their mental health issues were caused by a change in job role or workload, 15.9% by harassment, bullying and abuse of power. A further 15.3% attributed them to trouble with their superiors and 12.8% to having worked continuously for two weeks.
The survey also looked into the number of suicides as a result of overwork by industry. It was highest among office workers, with 41 cases, followed by salespeople, with 38 cases, and drivers, with 35 cases.