Black company (Japanese term)
A black company (ブラック企業, burakku kigyō), also referred to in English as a black corporation or black business, is a Japanese term for an exploitative sweatshop-type employment system.
While the term "sweatshop" is associated with manufacturing, and the garment trade in particular, in Japan black companies are not necessarily associated with the clothing industry, but more often with office work.
Origin of the term
The term "black company" was coined in the early 2000s by young IT workers, but has since come to be applied to various industries.
While specifics may vary from workplace to workplace and company to company, a typical practice at a black company is to hire a large number of young employees and then force them to work large amounts of overtime without overtime pay. Conditions are poor, and workers are subject to verbal abuse and "power harassment" (bullying) by their superiors. In order to make the employees stay, superiors of black companies would often threaten young employees with disrepute if they chose to quit.
Mina Mori, a 26-year-old employee of the restaurant chain Watami, committed suicide two months after joining the company in 2008. Her family lodged a complaint with the Yokosuka Labor Standards Office to seek recognition of the suicide as work-related. When their claim was denied, they appealed it to the Kanagawa Prefectural Labor Bureau, which recognized work-related stress as the cause of the decline of her mental health. In December 2015, Watami reached an out-of-court settlement of 130 million yen with the family, and Watami founder Miki Watanabe apologized.
The issue of black companies has attracted attention in Japan. The 2009 drama film On The Verge At a Black Company was set in such a workplace, and in 2012 there was a "Black Corporations Award" where people could vote on "the most evil corporation of the year".
In 2013 a DVD titled Black Kigyō ni Go-yōjin (Beware of Black Companies) was released.
In the manga and anime series The Laughing Salesman, one of the victims/protagonist worked at Black Corporation and contemplated suicide before meeting the Laughing Salesman.
In the multimedia project Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle, the character Doppo Kannonzaka is an office worker at a black company. He lists his work as a reason of his depression but continues to work with them because he has no choice.
The spinoff of manga and anime series Cells at Work! called Cells at Work! Code Black characterizes the body of an unhealthy, stressed, alcoholic individual as a black company in comparison to that of a healthy human being.
- Japan Times Unpaid overtime excesses hit young June 25, 2013 Archived July 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
- Vice Japan's Suicidal Salarymen are dying for work Archived 2016-09-26 at the Wayback Machine
- Japan Press Weekly Izakaya restaurant chain worker’s suicide recognized as work-related February 22-28, 2012 Archived 2015-04-03 at the Wayback Machine
- Japan Times Watami under scrutiny after karōshi June 17, 2012 Archived May 23, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- Pub chain Watami, founder settle suit over suicide of overworked staffer December 9, 2015 Japan Times Retrieved December 11, 2015
- Japan Times ‘Black Gaisha ni Tsutometerundaga mo Ore wa Genkai Kamo Shirenai’ November 27, 2009 Archived January 21, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
- Black Corporation Award homepage ブラック企業大賞 Archived 2013-07-02 at the Wayback Machine
- Rocket News 24 Voting is open for the “Most Evil Corporation of the Year” Award for 2012 July 22, 2012 Archived June 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
- Asahi Shimbun Film documents how 'black corporations' abuse young workers June 13, 2013 Archived June 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine