“Oh no, what should I do? I can’t finish my work, I’m doomed!” These were some of the last words of Hu Jia Yi, 26, who passed away due to overwork and sadly, the cause of her death was not uncommon in many parts of the world.
Even when she fell sick and had to stay in her bed all day long, Jia Yi still pushed herself to finish her workload up to four or five hours a day. Her mind was fully occupied by her work that her health slowly declined and she was later diagnosed with an immune system disorder.
However, that did not stop Jia Yi from working until she slipped into a coma. Unfortunately, the young woman took her last breath on May 1, the Labour Day.
Regrettably, Jia Yi’s case was not an isolated case in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has some of the longest working hours in the world along with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Nevertheless, unlike Japan and Taiwan which acknowledge overwork as one of the forms of occupational hazard and those who are affected by it could be compensated, Hong Kong is still investigating whether or not cases of the deaths of city workers and being overworked are related.
According to SCMP, it was only recently that the Hong Kong government had commissioned the Occupational Safety and Health Council to explore “any links between the deaths and work-induced physical exhaustion.”
UBS’s Price and Earnings 2018 report also revealed that Hong Kong workers work on an average of more than 50 hours per week.
The hours are even longer for up to 72 hours per week for those who work as security guards.
As one of the world’s most expensive cities to live as reported by The Economist Intelligence Unit in its annual Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, it is not a surprise that most workers in Hong Kong have to clock in longer working hours like Jia Yi who was only paid 14,000 HKD (USD 1,789) per month.
Jia Yi who was responsible for purchasing and marketing at a knitting factory often started her work at 9 am every morning and left work after 10 pm.
On top of her duties, she also often had to travel to and from Guangdong Province on the same day.
On October 16, 2018, as usual, Jia Yi traveled to a factory in Zhuhai city in Guangdong Province, China for work purposes. She was expected to return to Hong Kong later that day but she never did.
Fortunately, Jia Yi was found safe in Shenzhen the next day but it was already a little too late. When her colleagues found her, Jia Yi went insane and was not of sound mind. Her colleagues had to feed her as she could not eat by herself.
Her colleagues were reported to tell the local media that Jia Yi had complained of work pressure before the incident.
Jia Yi was later sent to North District Hospital in Hong Kong. During her stay at the hospital, Jia Yi could not recognize her parents and was often screaming in her bed that she had to be sedated to calm down.
Three days after she was admitted to the hospital, she fell into a long coma and eventually passed away on May 1 this year due to pneumonia and other health complications.
Following her death, her company had allegedly tried to avoid giving compensation to Jia Yi’s family as they claimed that her death was caused by pneumonia and it was not related to being overworked, as reported by HK01.
Until the Hong Kong government passes a regulation on the standard working hours and improve labor welfare, there will be many stories like Jia Yi in the nearer future.