600,000 Chinese Die Each Year From Working Too Hard

Tyler Durden's picture

Here are two very disturbing statistics:

  • Every year, 300,000 Americans die from obesity (Source: NIH)
  • Every year, 600,000 Chinese die from working too hard (Source: China Youth Daily, China Radio)

The rest, as the Chairmanwoman says, is "noise."

Still, here are some of the disturbing details from Bloomberg about a country that doesn't believe in downtime:

China is facing an epidemic of overwork, to hear the state-controlled press and Chinese social media tell it. About 600,000 Chinese a year die from working too hard, according to the China Youth Daily. China Radio International in April reported a toll of 1,600 every day.


Microblogging website Weibo is filled with complaints about stressed-out lives and chatter about reports of others, young and old, worked to death: a 24-year-old junior employee at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide Inc., a 25-year-old auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP; one of the chief designers of China’s next-generation fighter planes at state-run AVIC Shenyang Aircraft Corp.


“What’s the point of working overtime so you can work to death?” asked one commentator on Weibo, lamenting that his boss told employees to spend more time on the job.

China is not the first country where people have worked themselves to death:

Japan is where the term karoshi, or death from overwork, gained notoriety in previous decades. It encompasses deaths from stroke, heart attack, cerebral hemorrhage or other sudden causes related to demands of the workplace. Because the causal relationship to work-related stress may not be evident, the death toll can be subjective and difficult to compile.


Japan’s parliament passed a law on June 20 calling for support centers, aid to businesses for prevention programs and more research on karoshi. The government in 2012 compensated 813 families able to show a link between overwork, illness and death, including 93 suicides. The actual toll may be higher. Japan’s police agency counted more than 2,000 work-related suicides in 2013, and lawyers in 2009 said 10,000 deaths a year may be from overwork.

But China, with its world-record population, is taking work deaths to a whole new level:

In China, such deaths are known as guolaosi. “We have noticed that excessive overtime in China has become an issue,” the director of the International Labour Organization’s China office, Tim De Meyer, wrote in an e-mailed response to questions. “It is worrying as a physical and mental-health hazard.”


Work-life balance gets short shrift in a society that combines a modern pursuit of riches with an ancient belief in putting the community above the individual, said Yang Heqing, Dean of the School of Labor Economics at the Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing. In parts of China’s capital he’s surveyed, 60 percent of workers complain of clocking more than the legal limit of two hours a day of overtime, taking a toll on workers’ family and health, he said. He’s skeptical of the 600,000 figure, which he said may include other causes, and is working to compile his own data.

So why are people dying in the name of their job? “In China there’s still the belief that you do things for the development of the good of the nation, for development of the economy, to forget your own self,” said Capital University’s Yang. “But don’t forget, overwork also causes harm to the nation and to the family.

Well, that. And there's this:

Now, cubicle jockeys like regulator Li toil overtime in a society where issues of work-life balance are low on the agenda and self-sacrifice is the norm. Add to that long commutes and the detrimental consequences to health and family life start to add up, Capital University’s Yang said.


Family photos are rarely seen in Chinese offices, and workers are regularly expected to dine out entertaining clients. It’s common for children of urban professionals to be raised by grandparents in distant provinces.


Today’s worked-to-death workers are held up as China’s heroes for the modern age, cut from the same self-sacrificing cloth as earlier communist martyrs such as Lei Feng, a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army who has been lionized in propaganda campaigns since the 1960s for his selfless devotion to the Communist Party.

Whatever the reason, Americans are hardly at risk of mass deaths due to overwork-related exhaustion. Actually, we take that back. Since it is becoming increasingly impossible for young Americans to find jobs (no, it is not demographics' fault that millions are leaving the labor force as more millions are entering it) as can be seen in the following chart showing the labor force participation rate of Americans aged 16-19...

... yet older American workers, those aged 55 and older, have seemingly never been in greater demand...

... it is only a matter of time before the average age of the US worker rises to 50, then 60, then 70, and then these geriatric debt serfs, with no other options, their savings income crushed by the sociopaths at the Federal Reserve, start dropping like flies. Then America will have finally caught up with China for once.

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knukles's picture

They're the ones in Detroit, no?
The overworked ones... all those union supervisor jobs

nmewn's picture

lol...so bottom line, just working in a communist country kills many more than simply walking through a country where most are armed to the teeth like drooling neanderthals.

Glad we finally got that cleared up ;-)

SF beatnik's picture

Personally. I'd rather die of obesity.


More beer!

DoChenRollingBearing's picture



Umpteen thousands of bearings die in Peru every year!  

And that's just in cars alone!  Where's the humanity?

Rock On Roger's picture

That's what happens when you don't Greece your bail-ins.

Fill your race with sand and chafe your balls.


Stack On

Matt's picture

Wow. Looking at per capita numbers, unless I am doing it wrong:

1.6 Billion Chinese means an overwork death rate of 37.5 per 100,000.

Intentional Homicide rate in Honduras is around 90 per 100,000. 

Haiti is 10 per 100,000. Iraq is 8 per 100,000. United States is 4.8 per 100,000.

In America, the food is what will kill you, with 350 million people and 300,000 deaths from overeating, giving an annual mortality rate of 86 per 100,000.

rubiconsolutions's picture

Please don't confuse us with facts.

Wild Theories's picture

Oh noes, not aggregates like PER CAPITA, now people can't even feel better about their fat selves.

Trucker Glock's picture

"Dock that chink a day's pay fer nappin' on the job." - Blazing Saddles

SmackDaddy's picture

downvoted for being a nazi plastic pistol toting cop wanaabe.

NoPension's picture

Ask a yoot to ck the oil in a car. Need I say more?

Jack of All Trades's picture

Banker man grows fatter; working man grows thin...

Jstanley011's picture

Hmm. They've got four times the population, but are only dying a twice our rate. That's a war of attrition we're gonna lose. SAVE AMERICA - EXPORT TWINKIES!

Racer's picture

Bad is God

and to be rewarded

There is no punishment

Do more and more and more and more....

We the people have no voice, no say against these oppressors

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

When the death rate (from over work) equals the birth rate China will stabilize and stagnate. Until then they are the next up and coming super power.

navy62802's picture

OT - Gold just popped again. Sitting at $1330-ish.

i_call_you_my_base's picture

The china statistics are fishy. Do you they just mean people who died at work from those afflictions?

knukles's picture

All Chinese statistics are pure sophistry
And any arsehole on the telly speaking with a sense of authority concerning such is a pig's cankerous foreskin


Moreover, the NIH and CDC, et al are the ones and same folks who some years ago quit counting "flu" deaths then turned around and made up a buncha complete fabricated statistics concerning the magnitude of the problem

Step right up, getchur mercury infused shots folks

More fear based memes.

One And Only's picture

Life is a terminal condition. If you're going to die of something it might as well be work vs. dying fat and smelly with no job like most Americans.

This is actually good news.

Soul Glow's picture

PMI rises to 51.  Barely in the black.  Good thing I can trust Chinese data.

Smegley Wanxalot's picture

Oh sure, they are just trying to justify raising prices for shit I don't need at Walmart.

dirtyfiles's picture

the young one do to much texting during the work time

knukles's picture

Boss man say no more textie.  Now I send self selfies.  Hah ha ha ha ha  Teach boss man makie me productive like.  I go tug one off on his time.  Bad boss man.  Send tuggie to boss man.

Jesse's picture


Maximum productivity with a self-resolving pensionless retirement plan. 

Amazon and Walmart can only dream.

Frank N. Beans's picture

Chinese population control

UselessEater's picture

nah they got smog & toxic agri land for that (plus camps for "right" thinking), they just need more anti-suicide nets around the factories and now offices to keep the working age working and locked up safe and snug as a bug in a rug....

Moe Hamhead's picture

I've worked a lot of overtime in my life.  If it doesn't kill ya it will make ya stronger.

The stats from Chi-com land are complete bullshit.  They're probably dying from the flu.

In a place where someone will sell a kidney for an iphone!  They wouldn't miss an hour!

dirtyfiles's picture

working overtime make you stronger...

hmm I need another beer

Wahooo's picture

I've worked a few 24-hour shifts. It won't kill you and it makes the weekend more pleasurable.

NOZZLE's picture

arbeit macht frei, get busy rice balls, I need some useless, plastic, disposable consumer crap to satiate my consumer lust. 

starman's picture

wory not they are building a safety net by the San Fransisco Golden gate bridge so 40 some jumpers/year wont splash to their death. And that should raise the labor participation rate a couple notches.

tumblemore's picture

The US food industry is poisoning the public with too much sugar.


Peanut Butter Engineer's picture

Not sugar, it's the corn syrup and artificial sweetener that's killing us.

theelitistagenda's picture

They have Clinton to thank. Maybe he can give them another million dollar speech?

Debugas's picture

from business point of view this is nothing more just "Human Resources"

Last of the Middle Class's picture

As we slowly slide back into the dark ages.

orangegeek's picture

death in China's mines are huge/unreal


they sometimes shut down the ventilation to save on electricity - incredible


10's of thousands die each year


communist government just sees this as herd thinning