No matter the era, it never feels like you can make enough.

Societal issues related to labor rights aren’t exactly new or hidden in Japan. Many individuals living in the country and abroad are aware of phenomena such as office workers passing away from overwork or staying up until the wee hours of the night due to forced overtime. However, in the case of Twitter user @zunda_no_omochi, some of the darkest depths of overtime work in Japan are directly reflected on one of their past pay stubs.

“My wages when I was 22 years old. For 171 hours of overtime, after deducting taxes, I got 227,000 yen. (US$2,067) Every month I did at least 120 hours of overtime, and I never received a bonus. [Many Japanese companies bonuses to workers twice a year, in June and December.] I lived in the company dorms and I only visited family twice a year. My annual salary was 2,800,000 yen. (US$25,875) After taxes, it became 1,790,000 yen. (US$16,303) When I brought this up [to my supervisor], I was told: “You don’t know anything about how cruel society can be. Even if your wage is low, you need to come to work and suck it up.” And with that, I quit that job right there.”

While Japan still has no official poverty line, the general rule-of-thumb used by the government to determine poverty is a comparison of one’s annual salary to the mean household income. With a few quick calculations, we find that this particular Twitter user’s pay stub from 2009 had a startling gap—it was 990,000 yen (US$9,000) below the Japanese mean household income, which according to the OECD, was 2,780,000 yen (US$25,395) at the time. If we assume the original poster was single and not supporting dependents, even the most spendthrift budgets would be hard to achieve, especially if they lived in a city with a higher cost-of-living, such as Tokyo.

Multiple users on Twitter offered replies of sympathy and belated advice:

“Those old geezers are probably just jealous of the talents of skilled, younger workers. This is just their way of bullying y’all.”
“I got goosebumps seeing that pay stub.”
“If the employees can’t even sustain themselves, just throw out the entire management team.”
“Leaving the company was the best thing you could have done.”
“You really should have talked to a lawyer.”

▼ One Twitter user even shared their own story: “They’ve clearly outed themselves as a black company. I also worked at a black company and I got severely depressed. Even though I recovered after a year and started working again, I’m thinking about quitting and/or switching jobs.”

Many Twitter users such as the one above repeatedly referred to @zunda_no_omochi’s company as a “black company,” translated directly from the Japanese phrase burakku kigyou. The term is used to describe companies that violating the labor rights of their employees, creating hostile workplace environments where workers face harassment on the daily, grind through an overwhelming amount of overtime hours, and/or receive lower than standard wages for their labor.

While it should be noted that it’s been a decade since the original poster received that pay stub and earlier in 2019 a new law was passed to limit overtime work to 45 hours a month, it’s still unknown as to how strictly the law is being enforced, and more importantly, who is abiding by it. As the Olympics approach and international eyes turn towards Japan’s domestic affairs, we can expect more buzz regarding the island country’s most recent labor reforms.

Source: Twitter/@zunda_no_omochi via Hachima Kikou
Top Image: Pakutaso
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