A chronic labour shortage in Japan means it's not uncommon for people to work 12 hours a day and sometimes on weekends. As Tara Jospeh reports, the strain is taking its toll with a record number of people claiming compensation for death by overwork.
The crack of dawn in the Tokyo suburbs and Chika Kakazu is getting her son ready for daycare, before fighting for a place on a packed train headed for a very long work day ahead. From big banks all the way to the factory floor Japanese workers are facing heavy pressure from their companies -- leading to despair, exhaustion and in some cases suicide. Japan's labor laws are not being enforced, meaning businesses are getting away with squeezing as much as they can out of their employees Young graduates in particular are feeling the pinch - walking into very demanding jobs after harrowing searches, sometimes unequipped to handle the mental stress. Attorney Hiroshi Kawahito represents clients claiming compensation for death from overwork. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) LAWYER, HIROSHI KAWAHITO, SAYING: "In the US and other countries, its' the company executives and managers who are working too hard and collapsing. On the other hand the regular workers are not suffering. In Japan though it affects everyone." At the last count, Japanese officials recorded nearly 15-hundred cases of suicide and mental illness from over-working in a single year... But experts say the real number could be ten times higher - and that Japan's drive make the country competitive again is fueling a deepening crisis.