Sanrio's newest character is every modern employee that ever lived

Sanrio's newest character is every modern employee that ever lived
PHOTO: Sanrio

She's 25 years old and works in a reputable Tokyo trading company as an office associate.

Her alarm goes off at 7am, and she joins other groggy commuters on a 30-minute packed train ride to work.

She's cute, petite and has become the ultimate pushover in her company.

The minute she knocks off from work, her unsympathetic boss reloads towering stacks of documents on her desk.

When her colleagues pester her with trivia while she attempts to get work done, she rages internally but never once retaliates.

To cope, she drinks beer and belts out her frustration, indulging in heavy metal karaoke after work. Feeling better, she skips her way home saying: "Tomorrow is a new day!"

Her name is Aggretsuko. She is the latest character to come from Sanrio, the Japanese company behind the popular Hello Kitty character.

Most importantly, Aggretsuko is all of us.

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The red panda character strikes a chord at a time where Japan is forced to re-evaluate its karoshi culture.

Karoshi refers to death by overwork, a phenomenon that has plagued the common salaryman in Japan for the longest time.

Read also: Abe wants to cut Japan's long work hours so women can return to workforce - but will it work?

A government white paper last year revealed that at least one-fifth of the Japanese workforce are at risk of dying from overwork.

Strokes, heart failure and suicides due to overwork, account for hundreds of deaths each year.

According to the study, at least 22.7 percent of companies claims that some employees work for more than 80 hours each month.

Some like Matsuri Takahashi were reported to have worked more than 100 hours a month.

Takahashi made international news when she jumped to her death on Christmas Day in 2015.

Prior to her suicide, her social media pages were littered with lamentations of sheer exhaustion. In one post, she recounted only having 10 hours of sleep per week.

Takahashi wasn't alone.

Following her death, authorities raided her company - Dentsu, an advertising agency - and found that more than 30 employees were forced to clock excessive amounts of overtime.

Takahashi was 24 years old when she died and only a year younger than Aggretsuko, but their realities couldn't have been more similar.

The horizon looks promising though.

Fortune reported that the government has partnered with business lobbies to launch a "Premium Friday" campaign.

Scheduled to start on Feb 24, this campaign encourages employers to let staff off early on every last Friday of the month.

However, of the 2.5 million registered businesses in Japan, only about 1,300 companies have pledged to participate.

The scheme isn't mandatory, and it remains to be seen if companies will abide by it. Still, it is a start. 

Here's to hoping Sanrio's sardonic new character reminds bosses of their country's sobering reality.

debwong@sph.com.sg

 

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