Photo/Illutration A building housing the Cabinet Office and other government ministries and agencies in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Employees of government ministries and agencies have long been thought to work dangerously long hours--now, they have the numbers to prove it. 

A total of 6,532 government bureaucrats put in more than 80 hours of overtime a month--a criteria that can link a worker's death to overwork--over the course of three months through February, the government said.

Of these, monthly overtime topped 100 hours for a total of 2,999 employees.

The data, approved by the Cabinet on March 30 for presentation to the Diet, provided specific figures to show how widespread the notorious overtime practice is.

The figures were collected in response to inquiries from Takae Ito, an Upper House member of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, about the working conditions of government employees.

A government study showed that all 43 government ministries and agencies, except for four organizations, reported that there were employees whose monthly overtime surpassed 80 hours.

By ministry, the health ministry topped the list of the largest number of employees who logged more than 80 hours in overtime a month, with 1,092, followed by the Finance Ministry, 799, the land ministry, 676, the agriculture ministry, 517, and the economy ministry, 459.

Many of the employees whose overtime hours were staggeringly longer than their colleagues in other ministries and agencies were with the Cabinet Secretariat, where a team has been tasked to draw up measures to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.

They put in 364 hours of overtime in January, 305 in December and 283 in February.

It is not clear whether the same employees worked all those overtime hours.

The government said it will take steps to rectify the problem of bureaucrats’ chronic long work hours through a review and allocating personnel to sections based on their workloads as is financially permitted.

(This article was written by Junya Sakamoto and Takashi Narazaki.