Each year about five hundred families file for workman's compensation under karoshi. Some wives even file lawsuits against employers of the demised alleging they worked their beloved husbands to death. Is the tale of the work-a-holic salaryman still true or is it simply a relic us westerners simply can't forget from the Japanese post-WW2 industrialization?
Well, the answer is not easy. Working overtime is a common practice in Japan. One government report described Japanese salarymen as "corporate servants" instead of "corporate employees". Many young salarymen on a management career track will work long hours of unpaid over-time. However, Office Ladies are not considered career material so they usually work the standard 8 hour day.
Does this mean that the evening rush-hour is between 8 and 10 pm? No. Train schedules and station queuing in central Tokyo suggest that evening traffic peaks between 6-7 pm. Although this data is dubious since many salarymen are out entertaining clients at night. Saturday trains used to run at the same frequency as week trains, but that has changed since the government reduced the maximum work week from 6.0 days to 5.0 days.
Karoshi is a word that does not exist in the English language. The fact that it does exist in Japanese does not mean that most Japanese salarymen work until they drop. In fact, according to the US bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of American non-agricultural workforce works more than 49 hrs a week and 8% work more than 60 hrs per week. Do we need a word that defines "work-to-death" as well?