Battling Taiwan’s culture of overwork

Editor’s note: The Outlook series spotlights a country to give a deeper understanding of the business, industry and consumer trends that fuel its economy. While exploring the current challenges and opportunities facing a country’s economic progress, Outlook also seeks to provide an insight into its future development.

(CNN) For the past six years, Guo Chi-mei has struggled to get out of bed on his own. The 40-year-old suffered a stroke in 2006 and can only take a few unaided steps to his wheelchair before his blood pressure rises to a dangerous level.

Last year the government ruled that the stroke was because of overwork but his company is legally challenging the decision.

“The last six months before my stroke, I was working 18 hours a day and sleeping just four,” says Guo. His company had claimed $50,000 was missing from the account he was handling, and allege stealing. Guo denies the accusation and before his stroke was working overtime to investigate the missing money.

“Just after 8am one day, I suddenly passed out. My colleagues carried me to a meeting room and left me there,” says Guo.

“The company waited three hours before they took me to the hospital, by the time I got there I had heavy bleeding on my brain and doctors said my condition had become so bad it was inoperable.”

Guo’s case is sadly not unique and some cases of overwork in Taiwan have even been fatal. In 2011, 50 workers’ deaths were blamed on excessive working hours, according to Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs (CLA).

Hard work has long been ingrained in Taiwanese society, but only recently have officials begun to acknowledge that overwork exists.

By law workers are not allowed to do more than 46 hours of overtime each month and companies are fined for violating these rules.

The annual working hours for Taiwanese employees eclipses many industrialized nations, according to figures from the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) and the OECD. On average, the Taiwanese work 2,200 hours annually; 20% more than their counterparts in the United States or Japan and more than 35% longer than those in Germany.

Earlier this year healthcare professionals took to the streets to protest what they call a sweatshop health system claiming overwork puts their patients in danger.

The government of Taiwan has reacted to a growing public outcry over the dangers of overwork and is trying to improve the work culture in the country, subsidizing health facilities specializing in occupational health.

Dr. Guo Yue-Leon holds a free open clinic every Wednesday morning in Taipei’s biggest public hospital specifically for occupational disease. He has noticed a marked increase in patients.

“Not because the number are increasing,” he says, “but the people are more recognizing the condition so those who have a heart attack or a stroke, he or she realizes that working too hard might have caused the problem.”
Posted by: CNN, Paula Hancocks
Filed under: Outlook Taiwan


About mtlin

I'm easygoing and sometimes sentimental, also can be very funny. Geek style but social. A Blogger, a Wikipedian and an Engineer.
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