Why are some workers overworked?

Recently, a series of incidents such as “sudden death of an engineer in Dongguan in a rental house” and “death of a taxi driver after 24 hours of continuous work” have aroused widespread concern in the society. On the eve of May 1 Labor Day, the heavy topic of “death from overwork” has also entered people’s vision again. In the context of workers’ increasingly vulnerable employment, how to ensure that their basic rights and interests are not infringed and that the tragedy of overwork does not happen again has become an important topic for regulators and the whole society.

“overwork” is becoming a cancer that harms the health of workers.

One day in early April, Liu Xianjun, a 33 year old die engineer in Dongguan, walked into the rental house and never came out. It was only three days later that he was found dead on the floor. Liu Xianjun’s salary slip in March showed that he worked 189.5 hours overtime this month, which was far higher than the stipulation in the labor law that the overtime time per month should not exceed 36 hours.

Wang Xianwu, a taxi driver from Hubei Province who also works in Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, never stops working after 24 hours in a row. Because the black shift and the day shift have to work once a week, Wang Xianwu not only usually has to work 12 hours a day, but also has to work 24 hours a month for four days in a row. Finally, his body can no longer bear the long-term high stress of work.

In recent years, both white-collar workers and some manual workers have been exposed to “death from overwork” from time to time, which has often caused an uproar among the public and public opinion, but these are only the tip of the iceberg of China’s worsening workers’ overwork status.

Yang Heqing, Dean of the school of labor economics at the Capital University of economics and trade, who has long studied the problem of overwork, said that according to his survey and statistics, the number of workers in the state of overwork in China has reached about 30%. According to the degree of overwork, it can be divided into yellow light warning period, red light warning period and red light danger period. Once workers in the red light danger period are exposed to long-term overtime or excessive pressure, they may lose their lives at any time. Among them, teachers, scientific and technological personnel, civil servants and journalists are also the high-risk group of “death from overwork”, and even 60% of the workers in the red light district are overworked.

In addition, from the perspective of working hours, the phenomenon of overtime in many industries is also getting worse. Take Dongguan Dechuang Industrial Co., Ltd., where Liu Xianjun works, for example. A department overtime table provided by the company shows that 37 of the 42 employees in the Department were working overtime on March 31 alone. Among the more than 3000 domestic and foreign-funded enterprises in Chang’an Town, Dongguan, it is very common for employees to work overtime for more than 40 to 50 hours a month.

who is pushing workers to the brink of “death from overwork”

Yang Heqing said that there are many reasons why the phenomenon of overtime is becoming more and more serious so that a large number of workers are overworked. One of the important reasons is the pressure of survival brought by social transformation. Under the background of workers becoming more and more vulnerable in employment and the heavy pressure of rising living costs, workers can only win in the professional competition by working hard.

The netizen “true lies” more vividly expressed this helplessness: in our age, there are too many people who struggle for three or five years, and their health will collapse, and it is difficult to be competent for high-intensity work arrangements. It’s not that we all have a fighting spirit, but that the fast-paced and high-intensity work forces you to dedicate yourself if you want to stand on the ground and not be eliminated.

In many “death from overwork” incidents, the labor side mostly argued that the deceased was willing to work overtime and there was no problem of overwork. Experts analyzed that the death of workers may not be caused by the direct arrangement of overtime by the unit, but the professional pressure of “eliminating if you don’t work well”, long-term high-standard work requirements and assessment system are like an invisible hand, which makes these workers have to work overtime regularly, So that the working time and working intensity exceed the range that the body can bear.

Yang Heqing said that although there are supervision brigades in China to supervise the unreasonable operation and management behaviors of enterprises such as overtime work, in fact, this kind of supervision is very weak. It not only lacks effective means, but also lacks severe punishment measures. In general, workers in vulnerable situations dare not report on their own initiative, which makes employers even more intensified.

to solve the problem of overwork, relevant laws need to be improved.

The frequent cases of death from overwork have made people aware of the major harm of overwork to health. However, compared with Japan, Europe and the United States, the study of death from overwork in China is still in its infancy.

First of all, there is no clear standard for judging “death from overwork” in medicine and law. Under normal circumstances, death from overwork is due to excessive fatigue caused by long-time work, which leads to sudden death due to other diseases such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Clinically, it has not been defined as a specific disease. The lack of medical judgment standards also directly leads to the lack of legal definition of “death from overwork”.

In contrast, Japan and other countries have clear standards for judging “death from overwork”. For example, the relevant regulations issued by Japan at the end of 2001 stipulate that as long as the deceased worked overtime for more than 80 hours a month for 2 to 6 months before his death, it can be used as the basis for judging “death from overwork”.

In addition, there is still a blank in China’s legislation on the definition of responsibility, identification institutions and treatment methods of “death from overwork”. Some researchers have suggested that “death from overwork” should be included in the occupational disease system, but it has not been accepted; Although the work-related injury insurance regulations implemented in 2004 can treat some “death from overwork” as work-related injury, there are no clear provisions on some specific issues.

With the intensification of social employment competition, the problem of overwork is also becoming more and more serious. To eradicate this malignant tumor that infringes on workers and truly safeguard the rights and interests of workers, we need to work together in legislation, supervision, social security and other aspects.

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