October 2nd, 2012
04:45 PM GMT
Share this on:

Editor's note: The Outlook series spotlights a country to give a deeper understanding of the business, industry and consumer trends that fuel its economy. While exploring the current challenges and opportunities facing a country's economic progress, Outlook also seeks to provide an insight into its future development.

(CNN) For the past six years, Guo Chi-mei has struggled to get out of bed on his own. The 40-year-old suffered a stroke in 2006 and can only take a few unaided steps to his wheelchair before his blood pressure rises to a dangerous level.

Last year the government ruled that the stroke was because of overwork but his company is legally challenging the decision.

“The last six months before my stroke, I was working 18 hours a day and sleeping just four,” says Guo. His company had claimed $50,000 was missing from the account he was handling, and allege stealing. Guo denies the accusation and before his stroke was working overtime to investigate the missing money.

“Just after 8am one day, I suddenly passed out. My colleagues carried me to a meeting room and left me there,” says Guo.

“The company waited three hours before they took me to the hospital, by the time I got there I had heavy bleeding on my brain and doctors said my condition had become so bad it was inoperable.”

Guo’s case is sadly not unique and some cases of overwork in Taiwan have even been fatal. In 2011, 50 workers’ deaths were blamed on excessive working hours, according to Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs (CLA).

Hard work has long been ingrained in Taiwanese society, but only recently have officials begun to acknowledge that overwork exists.

By law workers are not allowed to do more than 46 hours of overtime each month and companies are fined for violating these rules.

The annual working hours for Taiwanese employees eclipses many industrialized nations, according to figures from the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) and the OECD. On average, the Taiwanese work 2,200 hours annually; 20% more than their counterparts in the United States or Japan and more than 35% longer than those in Germany.

Earlier this year healthcare professionals took to the streets to protest what they call a sweatshop health system claiming overwork puts their patients in danger.

The government of Taiwan has reacted to a growing public outcry over the dangers of overwork and is trying to improve the work culture in the country, subsidizing health facilities specializing in occupational health.

Dr. Guo Yue-Leon holds a free open clinic every Wednesday morning in Taipei’s biggest public hospital specifically for occupational disease. He has noticed a marked increase in patients.

“Not because the number are increasing,” he says, “but the people are more recognizing the condition so those who have a heart attack or a stroke, he or she realizes that working too hard might have caused the problem.”

CNN’s Outlook series often carries sponsorship originating from the countries we feature. However CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reporting. Read more on CNN's sponsorship policy

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Outlook Taiwan

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Anon Review

    It is very true that work is extremely important to an individual, especially in the Asian countries. However, a proper amount of rest is also integral to maintain a productive and better life. It will be one of humanity's greatest achievement if one find temperance in this hectic life we all live in.

    October 3, 2012 at 4:02 am |
  2. MonkeyBusiness

    Welcome to investment banking... 100+hrs/week...

    October 3, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  3. TingTong Ling

    Me ruv u rong timey ..... No ovaltime for my ruving ....... And my stloke r berry berry good for u

    October 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  4. Pantheon Chung

    To be honest, the situation that labors are treated as slaves in Taiwan is not a news but has existed more than 10 years . The Technical and OEM / ODM industry treated labors as slaves since 2000 ,then it spread over the whole of the Taiwan's labor market. But why can't the labors change the unfair and fatal situation?I think that the real reason is labors without force in Taiwan is why the situation is irresistible.A normal Labor Market Model is consisted by labor , capital and govt. But the Labor Market Model in Taiwan has been distorted for very long time , the govt. has colluded with capital to control , oppress and exploit the labor who without any force to resist the power. The terrible situation is not only reflected in workweek but also in salary. This pathetic story has long been ingrained in Taiwan as CNN report. Hoping God can bless Taiwan's labor and forgive the demons who abuse the poor labor. (sigh...)

    October 10, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  5. elfguard

    Translate into Chinese





    令人難過得的是郭奇美的例子並不是台灣超時工作下的致命特例,根據台灣勞委會(Taiwan's Council of Labor Affairs)表示,在2011年就有50個人可以歸因於超時工作而死亡。








    October 10, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  6. TaiLabor

    It's funny that our society usually take foreign media's opinion as something, so good job CNN, we Taiwanese labors really need help

    October 10, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  7. Taiwan Labor

    Overwork has been the series problem for many years in Taiwan, and the government never cares it. They never want to improve the situation, and we believe the situation is going to deteriorate as time goes by.

    Thanks CNN reports truth and the report echoes all labors’ heart in Taiwan

    October 10, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  8. Taiwan Labor

    Overwork has been the series problem for many years in Taiwan, and the government never cares it. They never want to improve the situation, and we believe the situation is going to deteriorate as time goes by.

    I would like to say thank to CNN, you report truth and the report echoes all labors’ heart in Taiwan

    October 10, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  9. Gabriel

    To MoneyBusiness & others who may think this working condition is relatively comfortable comparing to some of industries, such as investment banking:

    For a position in investment banking, working 100+hrs weekly turns out a package of compensation, say, 100,000 USD dollars annually. But what's the situation in Taiwan?

    I know a guy used to work as junior security analyst. For weekdays he had to be there in the office no later than 6:00 am, preparing all the issues happens throughout global capital market.

    At 8:00 a.m., breakfast review, he was gonna report it.

    9:00 a.m., the time Taiwan Stock Exchange opens, he had to prepare for first company visit at 10:00 a.m. With lucky he may returns to the office just to catch the lunch time.

    After he finished his pathetic lunch he had to prepare for 2nd run, at 2:00 p.m. Normally this poor guy returns to the office at about 5:00 p.m. Well, now it's time to write analysis report!!

    As a junior analyst, he had to spend roughly 2 hours for a report. Since he was demanded to visit 2 companies a day, this hard-working guy finished his daily analysis report maybe at 9:00 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.

    So let's call it a day?? NOT GONNA HAPPENED!! U.S. stock market opens at 10:00 p.m.(GMT+8), he had to read all the macroeconomic data before then and tracked all the issues that influences the U.S. capital market for tomorrows breakfast review.

    In the end, he returns to his room at the time from 11:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

    During the weekend, he can sleep for 8-10 hrs so that he won't die at heart attack or stroke or something. Then, he went back to the office for industry analysis, Saturday & Sunday.

    About his compensation, guess what? 22,000 TWD per month! Roughly 10,200 USD dollars annually.

    Who is this stupid slave? IT's ME. Thanks to financial crisis and Taiwan Govt.'s Nobel Prize policies, rewards of 100+hrs working weekly turns out to be less than 10,500 USD. Worst of all, this is not a special case to Taiwan labors. People are so exhausted and unable to fight back. TIA, This is Taiwan!

    October 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  10. Alvin

    Sadly that's the truth. And behind every cell phone, every electronic appliances there are countless blood shed and exploited labor force. It's not going to change unless Taiwanese got the guts to stand out for themselves.
    A story strikes me about how irrelevant and careless Taiwanese are: it is easy to see your fellow coworkers back you up if you were fired or mistreated for no good reason in a foreign company; but it is a rarity in Taiwan. Taiwanese people would choose to be quiet and at the same time glad the same thing did not happen to them. Maybe it's in their blood.

    October 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  11. Former Taiwanese Worker

    I used to work in Taiwan, but now I'm off for a Master's in Germany. One could consider it as a 2 year vacation to recover from 14-hour workdays.
    For both of my former jobs never stated the amount of hours we had to work. They never mentioned what compensation we would receive for working overtime. To the employers, how long their employees worked was not a problem. However, when negotiating the contract, it was often stated that one must fulfill the "duties" and "responsibilities". If you're efficient, then you get to go home early, and if you're not, you have to stay a bit later. However, here's the catch-there is no limit to duties and responsibilities. Once you sign your contract for slavery, you get endless tasks that are all part of your responsibility. And never mind getting a decent salary or raise. Sometimes asking for respect isn't an option.
    But where would I choose to work after I finish my studies? Still Taiwan. Regardless of the pessimistic labor situation, there's still no place like home.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  12. Anonymous

    In my former company in Taiwan, the working hour is one of the performance indexes of KPI.

    That is so funny and unbelievable !!

    October 11, 2012 at 3:23 am |
  13. Matt

    if you're overwork for extra money, no one will say anything about it, but the true is "we" work for none, spending so many hours at OT with very low salary/unbelievable overloading , we deserve it or what!? and don't know why the Taiwanese ppl couldn't come out n fight for their right?????

    October 11, 2012 at 4:05 am |
  14. Anonymous

    This is very true. Furthermore Taiwanese who are "salary-based" have no right to claim OVERTIME.

    October 11, 2012 at 6:24 am |
  15. Expat in Taiwan

    I have worked for Taiwan owned companies and International companies in Taiwan both are the same. 14-18 hour days, excpet for upper management IE: Country GM. The global teams or US management just turn a blind eye just like the goverment.

    October 11, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  16. Haschel

    More outrageous thing is Taiwan government punishes jobless with amerce called " 國民年金 "

    October 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  17. Roger Schrumer

    Well, after living in Taiwan for over 5 years I can say that cultural factors are deeply related to this situation. I hope you Taiwanese labor force understand that trying to "NOT LOSE FACE" won't make you get fired, instead it is making more and more people get sick. These are some common questions surrounding my coworkers: What will my other coworkers think if i leave the office at 6pm? Should I buy expensive candies to my boss to compensate my behavior? I don't wanna be called free rider, BS!! health comes first! as much as the good benefits of working in Taiwan are,

    October 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  18. showme


    October 12, 2012 at 6:06 am |
  19. sighz

    these comments make me greatly re-consider my motif to go work and contribute in taiwan. sighz...maybe better for me to develop elsewhere. wonder if i can get a salary-based job as a foreign expat...

    showme, shut the fap up. even if you say mr. guo's story isn't true, there are hundreds more stories just like mr. guo's! i have friends in taiwan who often share similar stories as mr. guo's or stories such as the people in the comments section. so, you're probably just someone in mr. guo's former company trying to cover-up what not.

    newayz, taiwan is overrun by corruption in the government. it seems te taiwanese laborers truly have no say nor any laborer rights and the government truly turns a blind eye to its own citizens. want to know why taiwan's birthrate is diminishing? this is probably one of the many factors!

    October 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  20. barry

    We need to work for our lives ,but we should never forget our health is more important than everything

    November 20, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  21. Taylor Rooks

    I simply can not locate a place here to order a subscribtion to "Letters in the Mail" for any gift or two and also for myself.It sounds like a wonderful idea and several of my mates is going to be delighted to receive letters in the mail....Diane


    January 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
  22. 网上买卖股票



    January 10, 2014 at 8:51 pm |
  23. 交易软件演示

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. Ill certainly comeback.


    January 13, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
  24. Hipolito Vostal

    My sis advised me about your site and how great it is. Shes right, Im really impressed with the writing and slick design.. haha the one who is posting the comments great terrific.


    January 20, 2014 at 11:55 am |
  25. Kurtis Fedorchak

    I got the result from Rudy B. Mizuno webmaster has not updated the page yet thats why its not there in the mizuno site. Please check ur time and let me know if it tallies your own time..coz one runner actually sees his results off my 10 minutes hahahah


    January 23, 2014 at 5:40 am |
  26. and cheap log garages|Log garages London|log garages UK|where to buy log garage|wooden children play houses}

    I need to to be able to make up anyone one almost no statement as a way to thanks a lot yet again for these particular great basics you've discussed on this website. This is certainly and so severely open-handed with those such as you to deliver extensively what exactly many individuals could possibly have distributed on an e-book to produce many dough in their own business, specially as you are might have ever done it if people needed. All those good tips likewise functioned to become simple method to make certain that some others have similar fascination the same as my very own to know a host of additional on trading of your difficulty. I believe there are thousands of more pleasurable classes ahead of time for you if you review your website.


    January 26, 2014 at 11:59 am |
  27. Barbera Stain

    It can be hard to get enough exercise in when you're traveling, so plan for some hiking or walks to explore your new environment. Go swimming in the hotel pool, or even take an hour at the gym. Walking through the mall or a museum can even serve as some extra movement.

    February 12, 2014 at 1:38 am |
  28. Jaye Guyett

    Some genuinely nice and useful info on this internet site , as well I believe the pattern contains good features.


    February 18, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
  29. Moris Sailer

    Good Post. it was interesting to read this.


    March 4, 2014 at 12:49 am |
  30. about

    I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, its rare to see a great blog like this one today...


    April 8, 2014 at 7:48 pm |

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP