The world sits their looking on at China’s economy wondering how they can do it and that we can’t.

But, there’s a price to pay for being economically sound and for having a growth rate that is much better than the Western world, even if there are some that say that the figures have been stir-fried in a wok. The price to pay is over work. According to a new report by China Youth Daily there are some 600,000 Chinese workers that die every year due to being overworked. Those figures again have been doctored up probably to make it go down a little better. But, even the state-run China Radio International has put the figure at 1,600 people dying every single day in the country due to being overworked by the bosses or by the administration.

The reason for the interest right now? Simply because of the mediatized reports of the Chinese banking regulator Li Jianhua who at the age of 48 worked himself into an early grave after dying from a heart-attack in June because he was trying to get a report finished before sunrise. The state is even using the deaths as a means to push others to work hard, sacrificing themselves for the Chinese economy. The dead are being used as martyrs of the economy, hailed as people to look up to in society and to emulate. Li Janhua’s employer released a press statement saying the following : “a model for party members and cadres of the China Banking Regulatory Commission”. It went on to state that people needed to “learn from Comrade Li Jianhua, one must be like him, always firm in ideals and beliefs, the broader interest, loyal to the cause of the party and the people, unremitting struggle sacrificing everything”.

Death from overwork even has a name (like karoshi in Japan) in China and is known as guolaosi.

But how does the USA do in the rankings of the number of people that die from overwork? Hard to say since recognition that someone has died from doing too much work is hard to determine. Admittedly, they might be dying from work-related illnesses such as stress, heart-attack or strokes, but was it due to overwork and sleepless nights worrying about the report that you have to get on the desk of that tyrannical boss by 8am the next day? Far better not admit anything, since it will be tantamount to a pay-out from the insurance company, anyhow.

So, where does the USA stand in the rankings of the average number of hours worked per year and per person?

• According to FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data), the average American works 1,700 hours per year.
• According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Devlopment (OECD), South Koreans work some 6.5 hours every day of their lives, which means a total of 2,357 hours per year.
• The Greeks work 2,052 hours on average every year. Although, are they actually declaring the real number or is that figure made up lots of others there? Greeks have apparently a high number of self-employed people (just as Italy does), which means that it’s notoriously hard to get an accurate figure on how many hours each person works.
• The USA comes in at 9th position in world ranking for people that work the most in the year around the world.
• It’s the Dutch that work the least with 1,391 hours per year on average.
• But, does all of this matter? Isn’t it the quality of the work that counts rather than the number of hours it takes you to get something done?
• Once upon a time, Europeans used to work far more than the Americans.
• That was back in the 1960s.
• Today, the UK is 20th with regard to the number of yearly hours worked by a person in the country.
• The USA overtook Europe by working far more than them in the 1980s.
• Today, Europeans have seen the number of hours worked per year fall by an average of 23% (1,625 hours today) in comparison with the USA’s fall in average hours worked which has seen a 3% drop since the 1960s.

China is still in the growth stage of its development and that means that there’s not enough hindsight to sit back and to take stock. Who in their right mind in the Western world would go for a sleepless night working and put their life in danger for the sole advantage of their country these days? The Chinese are prepared to do so in the sacrificing of the self for the goodwill of the masses.

Originally posted: China Working Itself into an Early Grave

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