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For Japan’s English teachers, rays of hope amid the race to the bottom

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The major economic engines of Japan Inc. — car manufacturers, appliance giants and the like — have often been caught price-fixing: colluding to keep an even market share, squeeze competitors out and maintain “harmony.” Similarly, the commercial English-teaching business could be accused of wage-fixing: Rather than competing for talent, they have followed one another’s lead, driving down salaries to hamper career development, limit job mobility and keep foreign teachers firmly in their place.

We’ve all heard the tale of the scorpion and the frog. In a rising flood, the scorpion asks the frog for a piggy-back ride across the river. The frog refuses, complaining that the scorpion will sting it to death midway. The scorpion assures the frog it would do no such thing because they would both drown. The frog accepts the logic, lets the scorpion on its back and begins to swim.

Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog anyway. As they sink, the frog reminds the scorpion that now they’ll both die. The scorpion replies, “I couldn’t help it; it’s in my nature.”

The eikaiwa (English conversation school) industry’s efforts to cut pay and drive down working conditions may be leading to a similar worst-case scenario for firms and their employees. With economies improving and salaries climbing in the Anglophone countries that traditionally supply Japan’s foreign teachers, there is less incentive to make the trip to Japan, where, in many cases, wages barely pay for the cost of living and respect for employees is at best a relative concept.

This decline seems to have accelerated in recent years, and Big Eikaiwa may be nearing rock bottom. At the same time, several perennial thorny issues appear likely to come to a head over the coming year, after disputes heated up in 2015.

All eyes are on October

The biggest change on the cards for 2016 concerns the infamous 29½-hour workweek, which has become the industry-standard method for eikaiwa chains to minimize their labor costs. Giving teachers schedules of less than 30 hours has allowed these firms to classify their teachers as part-timers, thereby avoiding enrolling them in the national shakai hoken social insurance program, under which the company is required to pay half its employees’ health insurance and pension premiums.

Yet, argues Chris Flynn of the General Union’s Fukuoka branch, “The 29½ hours was only ever an internal guideline (equal to roughly two-thirds of a full-time schedule) that the labor ministry used to clamp down on companies that didn’t enroll workers. It was never a hard and fast rule.”

In the spirit of price-fixing, most large eikaiwa chains have been bandying about this figure — which appeared on two Social Insurance Agency internal documents — like a get-out-of-jail-free card. Liam, a longtime ECC labor union member, says that by using this industry guideline, “the big chains funded their expansion with the money they should have paid into worker pensions.” One early victory for the ECC union, back in 2006, was winning the “option” for its members to be enrolled in the health and pension schemes, but nonenrollment remains the default for the company’s new hires.

Last year, with help from the General Union, one assistant language teacher (ALT) dispatched by Interac to the Tokai city Board of Education in Aichi Prefecture took the National Pension Service to court for the right to be enrolled in the health and pension schemes. The Tokyo District Court ruled that the teacher must be enrolled because he was in fact working more than 29½ hours a week, taking into consideration preparation and other “off-the-clock” time at school. The ruling failed to address the legality or otherwise of the 29½-hour rule, but the GU hopes this precedent will help other teachers working over the threshold based on time spent at the workplace win enrollment.

The big news for 2016 is that for teachers working for large firms — i.e., those with over 500 employees — the 29½-hour rule should cease to be an issue from October, when new labor regulations will require these firms to enroll all workers who put in at least 20 hours a week in the shakai hoken program. The law is supposed to be extended to cover all companies at an unspecified later date.

In a move the GU believes is not a coincidence, Interac announced in September that an “absorption-type split agreement” would take effect this month whereby the company (with “around 3,000 employees,” according to its website) would split up into at least six smaller regional firms “to position ourselves to manage the growth in the market,” in the words of the company. The union suspects that because the new law will apply only to companies with over 500 workers, Interac is trying to dodge this bullet by spreading its teachers around these new wholly owned subsidiaries.

Redefining employment

Meanwhile, other firms, such as Gaba, continue to sidestep the troublesome issues of thresholds and so on altogether by denying that their teachers are staff at all. Making use of itaku, or subcontractor, status — an increasingly popular tactic among companies within and outside eikaiwa — Gaba evades all the responsibilities an employer would usually have toward its employees: no sick leave, no pension, no insurance, no paid holidays, no overtime rates.

When an Osaka Labor Commission finding over one dispute carried wording that suggested the teachers were workers according to the Trade Union Law, Gaba appealed to both the district court, which stuck by the original judgment, and then the high court to have the wording removed, but the case was eventually withdrawn as part of a deal reached with the GU.

When Gaba’s owner, Nichii Gakkan, opened a new chain of schools — the fast-growing Coco Juku — it wasn’t going to be hostage to the teachers’ union all over again. Instead, it formed its own in-house one, which all teachers are required to join. Japan’s labor laws stipulate that an employer cannot “control or interfere with the formation or management of a labor union.” Perhaps Coco Juku didn’t get the memo.

The only hope a worker has of finding an employer that actually follows labor regulations may be a government job, and there are precious few of those around for foreign nationals. Enforcement in the private sector is universally lax. Worker rights are so shaky in the industry that even union membership can be grounds for dismissal, albeit illegal dismissal.

Though big names such as Berlitz and Nova have come under fire for nonrenewal of union teachers’ contracts in the past, others, such as Peppy Kids Club, Nichibei Eigo Gakuin and Linguaphone, have been ordered to reinstate nonrenewed staff. The Tozen Union was recently embroiled in a high-profile case with Shibaura Institute of Technology in Tokyo over the nonrenewal of seven union members’ contracts, after SIT declared its intention to part ways with all of its foreign English-teaching staff. The SIT union subsequently went on strike, and the case was finally resolved last year with a settlement at the Tokyo Labor Relations Commission. The conditions of the deal are subject to a confidentiality order.

Threats of strikes win concessions

The general trend of deteriorating pay and work conditions for teachers showed little sign of abating in 2015. Nova, for example, taking a leaf from Gaba’s playbook, has taken tentative steps into the itaku “contracting” business. Last summer it offered new hires the opportunity to become Nova subcontractors at the competitive rate of ¥2,100 an hour.

However, Nova lessons usually do not last an hour, and new staff can now earn a whopping ¥1,400 per 40-minute lesson, before tax. That is still about double the wage a shop attendant earns at your local convenience store, but teaching English is not a job for grocery clerks: Nova teachers are required to be university graduates and hold a visa that names them as “specialists in humanities/international services.”

Some cry that the industry has been on the rocks since the big crashes of behemoths Nova and Geos some years ago. This a curious cop-out considering that big names such as Nova (reborn after its 2007 bankruptcy and rebranded) and Coco are expanding again and the 2013 summer bonus ECC paid to its permanent (seishain) employees amounted to an average of ¥855,000. This is three times the monthly salary of a typical teacher at that school, yet the teachers got no bonus at all.

Others argue that since foreign teachers will not stay forever, they don’t deserve the same bonuses as Japanese staff, but this chicken-and-egg logic misses the point: If the company has profited from the efforts of its core staff, don’t they deserve a share as long as they continue to work there? According to Sarah, who worked at ECC, “It’s an English school, selling English lessons by native English teachers. They can’t very well do it without us.”

With calls for across-the-board pay rises largely stalled, unions have recently been focusing on prizing payment out of employers for “off the clock” preparation time between lessons, a tactic that has met with some success. Drawing a line under a struggle that began nearly a decade ago over remuneration for unpaid five-minute preparation periods, the GU reached a deal last year with Berlitz guaranteeing an increase in pay for those teachers paid per lesson and a decrease in lessons for salaried instructors, among other concessions.

“The members’ solidarity at Berlitz really won the day,” explains GU chair Dennis Tesolat. “We’ve been making the same arguments since 2007, but when the union got big and we took a positive strike vote, the whole situation changed. This isn’t an increase for more work, as people were always working during this time; it is more money for each lesson the teacher teaches — a pay increase.”

ECC also faced strikes in 2014 — over the now-abandoned plan to replace yearly raises with noncumulative bonuses — and the threat of more last May. Industrial action was averted after the company agreed to concessions on pay raises, after which ECC union membership doubled.

Tesolat sees the Berlitz agreement as a springboard for better conditions at other schools. “This victory will have implications for the whole industry as many, especially part-timers, have never been paid for work outside lessons,” he says. “Already we have submitted a similar demand to Nova.”

In addition to asking for enrollment in shakai hoken, the Nova Union has also urged teachers not to sign away their existing rights when the company offers “subcontractor” status upon renewal.

A make or break year

Only time will tell whether successes like these can halt Big Eikaiwa’s rush to the bottom, and teachers’ dash for the exits. A General Union online survey of instructors taken last year makes grim reading. Many cited a reduction in wages or hours over the past five years and few respondents expressed optimism about the future. A majority felt they had little job security and that their living standards had not improved — or had deteriorated — since 2010.

Some are taking jobs only to leave within months, teachers report. ALT dispatcher Interac reduces pay in quiet months, or offers two contracts a year to avoid paying teachers during the main holiday periods; the lack of job security leads to a high turnover, and Interac is forced to keep hiring year-round.

Nick, who works as head teacher at a small Japanese-run school in Sendai, says he is finding it hard to hire. “They’re not coming to Japan, they won’t work in eikaiwa, they don’t want to work in Sendai, and they are staying away from our school because at every point they look at it and it doesn’t pay enough,” he says.

Even when it does pay enough, job security can be hard to find. Recent labor regulations stipulate that after five years, temporary and contract workers must be offered permanent positions if they request them. For some education providers determined to keep their foreign teachers at arm’s length, the solution is to dismiss them well before they reach this point. The General Union has reported that Otemon Gakuin High School is currently trying to nonrenew its entire faculty of foreign teachers, in order to avoid this responsibility. A part-time teachers’ union also took Waseda University to task over a plan to limit teacher contracts to five years, and the university was forced to back down.

It is baffling that institutions that pride themselves on quality education should be willing to suffer the loss of so much experience and goodwill. Surely these organizations are only shooting themselves in the foot. Among the customer complaints Nova faced during its implosion were those concerning the quality of the teachers. If Big Eikaiwa has decided its teachers — the core providers of its service — aren’t worth much, then teachers, for their part, will come to the same conclusion about their employers and won’t put in the effort.

With government calls to raise private-sector wages, increased media attention toward “black companies,” union pressure to improve compensation and a dwindling pool of capable people willing to work in the industry, or to stay, a turnaround could finally be in sight in 2016. But if the industry doesn’t improve upon the dreadful conditions it has conspired to create, it might just go down with the teachers on whose backs it has hitched a free ride for far too long.

Views expressed are the author’s alone. In cases where first names only are used, these are pseudonyms. Craig Currie-Robson has taught English in New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong for well over a decade. He is the author of “English to Go: Inside Japan’s Teaching Sweatshops,” available on Amazon Kindle and Print on Demand. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • famicomplicated

    Great article, I hope all ALTs read it!
    I was an Interac ALT once, and the incremental cutting back of hours (and salary) was maddening and insulting. When I first started in 2007-8 I had a 12-month contract and full benefits. By the end I was on a 9 month contract with none.
    Interac stands proud as one of the worst companies in Japan in my opinion.

    Generally speaking, most things about the current system seem to be at odds with what the Japanese government is (supposedly) trying to achieve. How are Japanese students going to get a good English education with a revolving-door policy of poorly-paid, untrained, and demotivated instructors?

    I think a 280,000 monthly salary with pension and national medical insurance is a bare minimum we should be paying ALTs. On top of that, real training for ALTs and Japanese teachers to improve overall standards of teaching.

    • AConcernedCitizen

      Osaka city pays there ALTs that much but they treat them like dirt! For example, they just kicked out 80 teachers out of 110(!) because they hit ‘the three year limit’… but they allowed them to ‘apply again’ which is a pretty low way of pretending they’re not just firing them. That was all the teachers who have been there from the start of the program to help set it up and do all the legwork and that’s how they repay them? Wow…

    • GeneralObvious

      I work for Interac now. I have renewable 12-month contracts, prorated summer vacation pay, paid holiday/sick days, am enrolled in the national insurance program and get my travel expenses paid for.

      • famicomplicated

        That’s great (for you)! Maybe you’re on a special contract where you work full-time at one or 2 schools for a local authority via Interac? But know that is not the norm these days.

        Also, doesn’t your salary drop in March, April, August, Sept, Dec?

      • GeneralObvious

        I am not on a special contract. Everyone In Kyuushu has exactly the same benefits with similar pay. I work at 3 school for the local board of education, just like everyone else in Kyuushu (and the rest of Japan from what I’ve heard).

        My salary does drop, but that is because I am working far less hours. I don’t work at all in August and I have 2 or 3 week spring, fall and winter vacations during the other times. All national holidays are paid and I am allotted 1 week of paid vacation each year which rolls over and is paid if I don’t use it.

      • famicomplicated

        Maybe you being in Kyuushu is the key differentiator here.
        I worked for the company for 6 years in the Tokyo area, and believe me, it hasn’t been like what you have for a long time. Count yourself lucky and stay in that area if you like what you do!

      • 6810

        “prorated”, “salary drop” = 9 month contract.

        It’s not that hard if you have a calculator. Take your annual salary. ACTUAL salary, divide by twelve. Discover your actual monthly salary. Kind of different to what was advertised, right?

      • J.P. Bunny

        What’s advertised is almost never what is paid. These places are great at finding all kinds of reasons not to pay what is advertised.

      • Blair

        …far “fewer” hours

      • The Ripper

        That may be true in Kyushu but Japan is a far bigger place. Interac regularly diddle with contracts, as explained in other posts. In August, you’re often required to do extra work such as summer courses and other lessons at short notice, at the lower pay rate.

        There are also well-documented cases of disgraceful Interac behaviour, such as the Michael Collison case. He was an instructor whose contract wasn’t renewed after he left work early without informing Interac, in order to attend to his pregnant wife and miscarried baby (which subsequently died).

        Interac regard their instructors as nothing more than numbers on a page, with a very strict “two strikes and you’re out” disciplinary system, with no right of reply or redress for the instructor. Even if the instructor has been exemplary to date, or has a miscarriage.

      • NattG0

        Your benefits, I can assure you, are not on Shakai Hoken. You have the normal NHS that most Interac employees have which does not cover pension and does not have as many other benfits. Also, your travel expenses to and from school may be paid but how Interac does the whole car rental thing means it is included in your overall salary shown in your taxes. Therefore, you end up being in a higher tax bracket than you are supposed to be. If you ride public transportation this isn’t so much of an issue. Then, whenever you want to transfer outside the branch, you have to be EXTREMELY cautious because they can put you on a new higher contact which will deduct your wages plus pay you a lower % in the “slow” months.

        t think Interac is as not bad as other companies if you have been with them a few years but I honestly feel sorry for the new hires, the schools, and the students. The quality of teachers has definitely dropped in my opinion all over and who suffers the most from that? The students. It’s sad when students are surprised that you ARE NOT leaving and staying within the school. They are so used to high turn over rates that sometimes teachers, students, or even ALTs don’t try to connect with each other.

        I believe that there is those within Interac who do their best but it is sad to see that their efforts are RARELY rewarded. Also, with the whole “splitting up” of Interac, it will be interesting to see whether they will honor the 5 year agreement with those who have been with the company that long. It isn’t a forever job but it would be nice if it better supported people who stay, do a good job, try to learn Japanese, get results, and after a few year are able to leave knowing they were appreciated.

      • GeneralObvious

        Yeah, I have the kokumin hoken. The option is available to switch, but I chose not to because it would cost me far more on a monthly basis and I really don’t care about retirement insurance in Japan. If I decided to live here for the rest of my life, then it would become more of an issue for me, but right now it would just be an added expense. An expense that is often difficult to recoup when leaving the country I’ve heard. The car thing is annoying though. I know a few people looking to stop renting now because of it. As far as the 5 years go, good luck…

      • famicomplicated

        I was going to reply again but the other posters have made all the points (and more) that I was going to!
        I will say it again, Interac is one of the worst companies in Japan, avoid them/leave them if you can. They will screw you over in increasingly awful ways until you’re forced to quit!

      • http://starcitizen.black Graxxor Anandro Vidhelssen

        I am only speaking for me, but I saw it in my contract. I was promised a bonus if I worked there for a year. My contract lasted only 50 weeks. ergo. No bonus… Did they lie? No. But they were very disingenuous.

      • jcbinok

        Did you re-up your contract? Perhaps they meant you would receive a bonus in you next contract.

      • jcbinok

        Did you re-up your contract? Perhaps they meant you would receive a bonus in you next contract.

      • GeneralObvious

        I’ve been with this company for almost 3 years. I usually work about 4 days a week and only have to show up for the classes that I’m scheduled for. I get paid the same amount every month regardless of the actual hours I work, never have to work weekends, get my travel paid for and have had literally zero problems with them. In my time with this company, I have only seen 1 person have a dispute and it was over travel expenses. Most of the people in my prefecture have been with this company for upwards of 10 years.

        Have you actually worked for this company before or are you just blindly talking out of your ass based on things you ‘heard’?

      • jcbinok

        If I only had to show up for my classes, that would be phenomenal. My main gripe with my company is that I’m scheduled 40-plus hours a week, yet considered part-time because actual teaching time is less than 29.5 hours. That makes no sense; either I’m required to be on-site (i,e., work) or not.

      • GeneralObvious

        They asked me to stay when I’m not scheduled when I first started a few years ago, but I leave or go in late if I have no classes. If they aren’t paying me for it, I’m not going to be there. All of the other teachers in my area do the same thing. If they want me to work 40+ hours a week, then they need to pay me for it.

      • GeneralObvious

        I’ve been with this company for almost 3 years. I usually work about 4 days a week and only have to show up for the classes that I’m scheduled for. I get paid the same amount every month regardless of the actual hours I work, never have to work weekends, get my travel paid for and have had literally zero problems with them. In my time with this company, I have only seen 1 person have a dispute and it was over travel expenses. Most of the people in my prefecture have been with this company for upwards of 10 years.

        Have you actually worked for this company before or are you just blindly talking out of your ass based on things you ‘heard’?

      • Toyama Tim

        You are required by law to pay pension (Nenkin) (retirement insurance). Come this tax season you will be getting a bill for your missed payments.

      • jcbinok

        I’m not so sure about that. Last year I went to my local city hall thinking I was going to get crushed for years of back payments on retirement and for not being enrolled in National Health Insurance (I use my company’s health insurance). The city hall people said I didn’t need to be enrolled in either as far as they were concerned.

      • Toyama Tim

        You are required by law to pay pension (Nenkin) (retirement insurance). Come this tax season you will be getting a bill for your missed payments.

      • GeneralObvious

        Yeah, I have the kokumin hoken. The option is available to switch, but I chose not to because it would cost me far more on a monthly basis and I really don’t care about retirement insurance in Japan. If I decided to live here for the rest of my life, then it would become more of an issue for me, but right now it would just be an added expense. An expense that is often difficult to recoup when leaving the country I’ve heard. The car thing is annoying though. I know a few people looking to stop renting now because of it. As far as the 5 years go, good luck…

      • FunkyB

        RE: Travel Expenses – If your employer doesn’t separate transportation from your salary (for whatever reason), you need to do a kakutei-shinkoku 確定申告 (income tax adjustment) yourself. Keep a record of how much the travel cost was for the year, and report it as a deduction on your income taxes. If it’s a large amount, it would be good to have some evidence and show how you calculated it. I’ve done this before and the tax officials at the city hall helped me do it.

      • Tony Alderman

        How about pay raises and bonuses?

      • GeneralObvious

        There are no bonuses. People who have been with the company for a long time can usually bargain for higher pay. A few of the teachers in my area have been here in the same area for almost 10 years, they make a decent amount more than me. If the BOE likes you can use that as a bargaining chip to increase your pay, by threatening to leave.

      • J.P. Bunny

        Must lucky are you. Interac (and other companies) now tailor their contracts to meet the needs of the B.O.E. In my area, Interac has the ALTs on daily pay as the B.O.E. wants to pay as little as possible. One notorious company based in Omiya actually had positions that only paid for classes actually taught, preparation and between class time didn’t count. A huge mess it is.

      • GeneralObvious

        I’ve never heard of that. Everyone in Kyuushu has similar contracts. I assumed all interac employees were the same. Before taking this job a few years ago I researched online and everything I had read lead me to believe that Interac only gives out 12 month contracts now. I heard in the past they were a pretty shady company though.

      • pd1986

        I have worked for interac for almost 6 years… you will find that your contract is not a full 12months…at most it is a 11month contract.
        As a new starter your contract will begin end of March, for some people it will last 12months, but for others it will end sooner.
        When you come to recontract for the 2nd year, your contract wont start until around the second week of April and will end 3rd week of March (or sooner), resulting in a 11 month contract.

        Also, Interac have never paid for summer vacation – in fact you often get at least 2 weeks of unpaid vacation (which is classed as uncontracted hours)… this also happens in winter… so that 11months becomes 10months of actual pay.

        We don’t get sick pay… that has never happened… in fact it’s 5 personal days that they prefer you to save for days when you are sick — we are supposed to get between 10-15 days BUT interac detate the others around summer and winter.

        about 90% of the teachers in interac are NOT enrolled on the shakaihoken program (this is the full insurance and pension scheme combined that BOTH you and interac pay into)… i think most employees are on Kenkō-Hoken which is split into 7 payments and interac doesnt pay into it…you also are supposed to pay into the pension scheme separately.

        (This article refers to most companies avoiding signing people up to the shakaihoken, which cost more but in the long run you pay less money up front at the hospital and have more money in the pension pot)…

        Interac is one of the better companies to work for in the teaching world…although ALL the companies do screw the ALTs over…

        BUT it is also the BoEs… they want to pay less and less… JET used to make up most of the ALTs in japan, but now there are more people from dispatch companies than JET… This is because JETs cost more – they get paid 300,000 a month.
        But even they got cut backs… at one point they get partial paid accommodation and tax free…
        BoEs realised they could strike a deal with dispatch companies – they could pass over all the management to other companies, it meant less responsibilities for schools and JTEs, thus cutting costs… but then dispatch companies started fighting over contracts which drove them down… in some areas the BoE pays around 220,000-250,000 per ALT…meaning the ALT’s salary goes down, which is why interac in some areas only pay 220,000 for the ALT and joytalk sometimes pay as low as 180,000 per ALT…

        In all honesty though, i have meant some terrible ALTs that are here on a gap year with little thought given about their schools or students… they are here for a year to have fun and then go home and get a ‘real’ job… i dont think they deserve higher salaries, bonuses, or cost the company money by being on shakaihoken.
        But, for those people who are trained, have qualifications, are serious about teaching, who do want to stay at least 3 years – these people should have pay rises every year, with bonuses as an incentive for staying, and shakaihoken…

        If companies and the government are serious about English education, then longer more permanent contracts should be made. There are people who do want to stay in japan, who do enjoy teaching, who do want to help improve english etc.

        The danger now is companies are moving away from native speakers… they are moving to countries where english is a ‘main’ language… so technically they speak english, and technically are taught in english BUT often it a totally different accent, way of thinking, understanding, different pronunciation, and sometimes different grammar structures…
        I remember the first year the government open up the door to allow jamaicans to teach – although some were ok, there were many complaints because their accents were difficult to understand (yes you could say it is being racist blah blah blah…but if the kids cannot understand you, then there’s an issue).
        There are even non-native teachers teaching English… English is their second language but that is ok for elementary and some junior high schools…
        Yet the government cannot understand why the Japanese students are not doing so well at english…lol

  • Firas Kraïem

    “The eikaiwa (English conversation school) industry’s efforts to
    cut pay and drive down working conditions may be leading to a similar
    worst-case scenario for firms and their employees.”

    Maybe that would be a good scenario for the English level of Japanese people, however. The current system is not exactly working very well, is it?

    • incumbent

      Good point, but the English conversation school’s role in the process is incidental. Priorities for pedagogy are set at the national level, and learning English isn’t one of them. In fact, its the opposite. Students are taught that any encounter with English mandates a trip to the English-Japanese dictionary. Students never learn English because they are taught never to learn English. Eikaiwa’s simply try to make some money off that process. In terms of Japanese actually learning English, their demise would probably be as incidental as their existence. But you’re right, it might actually help (It certainly couldn’t hurt).

  • Ron NJ

    Worth pointing out that the government-run JET program also limits contracts to five years so that they are also not forced to convert ALTs into permanent employees. Also when the worker dispatch laws changed a few years ago to mandate that workers on revolving contracts be made permanent after five years, all of the ALTs’ (English-language) contracts had the word “contract” replaced with “appointment”, presumably to ensure that no one would fuss when they were forced into unemployment after the five year limit was reached.
    Either way, what I’m getting at is this: if the government-run programs won’t even follow their own laws regarding contracts and employment status, why should the private sector?

    • bimotarich

      well said

    • Tip

      Say you are hired under the JET program or working for the same school for more than 5 years. Would they have to give you permanent employment if you asked or does the word “appointment” change that law?

      • doninjapan

        Pretty sure of the following…
        – the word ‘appointment’ doesn’t mean much, other than to discourage you. If you’re working, and do so for more than 5 consecutive years (10 for university), then you’re entitled to permanency (or so I believe).
        – the working more than 5 years is never going to happen. They’re well aware of the law, and you’re not slipping through the cracks, no matter how good you are. You’re a commodity with a 4.99 year shelf life.

      • http://godfather.wikia.com/wiki/Michael_Corleone The Don Michael Corleone

        Oh My God. where do you come up with these expressions? If I was a half decent Japanese corporate guy or diplomat, I’d hire you in a flash.

      • Tip

        I’m pretty sure there are people out there that have stayed longer than the 5 years, but reading this from another site.

        “Fixed term employment contracts which commence before 31 March 2013 will not count towards the required 5 year continuous employment period.”

        Makes me think that they might change the way they handle certain contracts going forward.

      • doninjapan

        I know that in *some* companies, the contract period was be for 364 days. The key word there is continuous…
        I’m not sure if that still occurs, or if it was legal in the first place.

      • J.P. Bunny

        Still occurs it does. Also is the lovely practice of changing your title. Four years as an ALT is erased as you are now an AET, starting from year one.

      • CLJF

        Surely such an approach is actually illegal and could be challenged by the union/in court.

      • Ron NJ

        The English language contracts wouldn’t matter a bit in court as the Japanese version is the definitive one and did not include any such wording change (which I imagine was made only to ensure that ALTs wouldn’t raise the issue and cause someone to lose face/meiwaku/whatever).

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Big Eikaiwa has a ready supply of performing blond haired blue eyed monkeys to milk more cash out of docile unthinking Japanese students. Wages have a long way to fall before they hit the bottom. Anyone who teaches English in Japan as a “career” is a joke – it is simply a way to cover living expenses whilst getting cultural experience before returning home to a proper job.

    • David Conrad

      That’s the kind of cynical, entitled whining I came to expect at the big prefectural ALT gatherings.

    • blondein_tokyo

      What is it with you people who feel such a need to put other people down? There are a lot of very good English teachers in Japan with advanced degrees who are working hard and who really know their stuff. Just because you only see one side of the industry doesn’t mean that is ALL there is to see.

    • jcbinok

      ALT wages work out to about $15 an hour. Where I’m from, that’s pretty good money. Not great, but pretty good.

      Now, if the US moves to a $15 minimum wage, my opinion might change, but right now minimum wage is $7.25.

    • jcbinok

      ALT wages work out to about $15 an hour. Where I’m from, that’s pretty good money. Not great, but pretty good.

      Now, if the US moves to a $15 minimum wage, my opinion might change, but right now minimum wage is $7.25.

    • jcbinok

      ALT wages work out to about $15 an hour. Where I’m from, that’s pretty good money. Not great, but pretty good.

      Now, if the US moves to a $15 minimum wage, my opinion might change, but right now minimum wage is $7.25.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Big Eikaiwa has a ready supply of performing blond haired blue eyed monkeys to milk more cash out of docile unthinking Japanese students. Wages have a long way to fall before they hit the bottom. Anyone who teaches English in Japan as a “career” is a joke – it is simply a way to cover living expenses whilst getting cultural experience before returning home to a proper job.

  • David Conrad

    Who wouldn’t want to work in Sendai?? I was an ALT in Miyagi for 2 years and then returned to Sendai years later where my wife taught Eikaiwa. It’s a beautiful place and I’d love to go back.

    A lot of ALTs, in my experience, never understood how good they had it.

    • Candy Rowe

      Just got back from there. I love living in the country areas. You are treated better adn you save a whole lot more

  • Pedro

    Wow…no wonder most Japanese cannot speak English! This mentality of systematically minimizing/cheating foreign employees only results in Japan’s continuing downward spiral as a global tech leader.

  • ProjektKobra

    My experience was like that old shampoo commercial from the 80’s..”I got screwed over in Japan, and I told two friends, and THEY told two friends..and so on, and so on…and so on…”

    Nova thought that there would be a never ending wave of wide-eyed, “Garsh!” gaikokujin turning over the dried up and disillusioned ones who went home crushed and defeated.

    They thought wrong…I guess they never expected people to use this thing called “the internet” to see what it was like working there before they signed on the dotted line.

    Them going belly-up couldn’t have happened to a dumber group of weasels.

    • doninjapan

      The big issue for Nova was when they decided to not raise salaries. Many experienced teachers bailed, and in an effort to get *lesson quality* they introduced stock-standard lessons, and insisted everyone teach exactly the same way. Lesson quality dived, and then students started to leave… and ask for their money back (which was already spent on ridiculous amounts of expansion).
      Nova imploded.

      • ProjektKobra

        LOL..I walked into my school..looked at all the “new staff” going through files, said “Hello”, and got a gruff answer.

        “Hrm, new staff is kinda crusty, eh?”

        “Those aren’t new staff…they’re cops.”

  • Yuki

    1400 yen an hour is almost double what I make here in Canada. I think this article is a bit jaded; the employees agreed to work for that wage so it’s kind of silly to complain after the fact. If you don’t like it, feel free to work somewhere else in Japan, or find greener pastures in the West. Making almost two thousand dollars a month is a really good salary when the bonus is that you get to live in japan.

    • doninjapan

      Quite simply put… no.

      “Get better elsewhere then” is not an excuse for having your salary decrease, nor is it an excuse for companies to continually attempt to screw over their employees.

      • Yuki

        Some gaijin think it is. I’m one of them.

      • doninjapan

        Good for you.

        Yet you’re “…here in Canada”, not in Japan.

      • Yuki

        I still have another year until I graduate.

      • doninjapan

        I think you’ll find – should you take one of those jobs – it’s not the beer ‘n skittles rainbow party you imagine…

      • Yuki

        I’m aiming more for an anime and sushi party

      • doninjapan

        Fair enough… but again: nope.

      • Yuki

        You say it’s a crapfest, but it can’t be worse than waiting tables and pouring coffee for half the price. Besides, I’ve lived here my whole life. I want change, and that’s part of the bonus

      • doninjapan

        I don’t work in the eikawa/ALT industry any more (once upon a time…)… but there’s a very big difference in working as a student, and working full-time.
        You’re looking for a bit of an escape before you undertake “real life”. An eikawa position just might grant you that… or you might find that you’re getting screwed over.

        Either way, that’s what the premise of the article is: the conditions/salary within that industry do not encourage long-term stays, nor do they invite the kind of teachers that are going to help create an environment that will better the English of the clientele.

        It is – as you suggest I say: a crapfest.

      • doninjapan

        I don’t work in the eikawa/ALT industry any more (once upon a time…)… but there’s a very big difference in working as a student, and working full-time.
        You’re looking for a bit of an escape before you undertake “real life”. An eikawa position just might grant you that… or you might find that you’re getting screwed over.

        Either way, that’s what the premise of the article is: the conditions/salary within that industry do not encourage long-term stays, nor do they invite the kind of teachers that are going to help create an environment that will better the English of the clientele.

        It is – as you suggest I say: a crapfest.

      • Blair

        I don’t think most people realise that Canada has become more expensive than Japan. Japan is relatively cheap. 5万for a decent apartment, 100円 sushi, conbini ready made meals under 400円, and you could make a lot of money on the side…especially with your upbeat attitude. I’ve never taught English but I know many who have and there are quite a few who have made a good living. If you really like it here, slowly build up your base of students and open your own school. I have a friend who charges 2000円 per student per 90 minute class. She has a limit of 4 students per lesson, and she’s filled up 20 classes per week! She picks and chooses her students so she really enjoys her classes. You can make as much as you want here. You just need patience and perseverance and a positive attitude. Good Luck, Yuki

      • ippatsuya

        > 5万 for a decent apartment

        1K Leopalace in the inaka we’re talking about I presume? I guess if you’ve only ever lived in a dorm and never plan to live with your significant other this might be good

        > 100円 sushi, conbini ready made meals for under 400円

        By that logic Canada is cheap because you can eat instant ramen from the supermarket.

        > I have a friend who charges 2000円 per student per 90 minute class.

        This isn’t 2000円 per hour then is it, it’s 8000円 per hour which IS a very decent wage.

        So live in a shithole, eat garbage, and miscalculate your figures. Sounds good.

      • Blair

        No, not in the middle of the countryside, a half hour from the Yamanote line, in Kawagoe for example, you can find a decent one room apartment for less than that. Sure you can eat instant ramen here, too. You can do all your shopping at the 100 yen shop if you’re so inclined. The point being you can eat well here for very little. Also, there was no miscalculation. You read it right. Give yourself a pat on the back. Cheers!

      • Blair

        I don’t think most people realise that Canada has become more expensive than Japan. Japan is relatively cheap. 5万for a decent apartment, 100円 sushi, conbini ready made meals under 400円, and you could make a lot of money on the side…especially with your upbeat attitude. I’ve never taught English but I know many who have and there are quite a few who have made a good living. If you really like it here, slowly build up your base of students and open your own school. I have a friend who charges 2000円 per student per 90 minute class. She has a limit of 4 students per lesson, and she’s filled up 20 classes per week! She picks and chooses her students so she really enjoys her classes. You can make as much as you want here. You just need patience and perseverance and a positive attitude. Good Luck, Yuki

      • Blair

        I don’t think most people realise that Canada has become more expensive than Japan. Japan is relatively cheap. 5万for a decent apartment, 100円 sushi, conbini ready made meals under 400円, and you could make a lot of money on the side…especially with your upbeat attitude. I’ve never taught English but I know many who have and there are quite a few who have made a good living. If you really like it here, slowly build up your base of students and open your own school. I have a friend who charges 2000円 per student per 90 minute class. She has a limit of 4 students per lesson, and she’s filled up 20 classes per week! She picks and chooses her students so she really enjoys her classes. You can make as much as you want here. You just need patience and perseverance and a positive attitude. Good Luck, Yuki

      • jcbinok

        Come on over, you’ll do fine. But, strictly trying to survive as a private tutor seems dicey.

      • bimotarich

        costs of living are high and getting higher year by year… many schools give NO raises.. and often scam you in other ways you will no be aware of until you are here… and hopping ships is costly at best… they are OK jobs for a year abroad experience but not good for anyone looking for a real career… and the quality of people they attract is pretty crap too as a result and when they do get lucky enough to get a good teacher that person often bails because it is a raw deal… luckily I have always had government jobs here… but as someone else pointed out… even they try to skirt the law…

      • Yuki

        So if I do an unusually good job and am a good teacher, I’ll stand out above the rest then?

      • jcbinok

        It’s been my experience that ALT’s are a generally good lot of folks. Most are young and only stay for a short time though. It’s be a perfect two-year gig.

      • fun_on_tv

        I would be surprised if you can’t earn more than 2,000 yen an hour after you graduate. In 2011 the average graduate salary in Canada was CA$49,400. That’s 4,131,460 yen a year. That’s 2,270 yen an hour.
        So you are going to shell out to fly to Japan and find an apartment to earn less money? if so, you are very Japanese. My students tell me to work money hours for less pay lol.
        Also A lot of the good jobs are based on trust between people. If you try undercutting them then people will stop helping you. I got 95% of my work through friends and co-workers. A friend of mine tried to do the same and got very frustrated because he got the worst low paid jobs.
        Life is too short. If you are desperate sure work for those clowns otherwise try applying for the JET program or find a decent private company. My friends have jobs that pay well, free use of a car and a cheap apartment. Some companies even give paid holidays.

      • J.P. Bunny

        You may think differently when the money you were counting on to pay the rent is suddenly less than you expected. It’s hard to plan for those sushi and anime parties when your employer keeps finding new ways to not pay you.

    • fun_on_tv

      Do you know how expensive it is to live in Japan? Also remember there is no sick pay or holiday pay.
      1400 yen per lesson is a joke. I refuse to do any lessons that pay less than 3,000 yen. Please remember that you need a degree from a university in order to get a visa to work in this field. I don’t think that is necessary as more of the work is fairly simple.
      Luckily for me I work in a medium sized city. So I don’t have work for the big chains. I have plenty of private work paying 3,000 to 5,000 yen.

      • Yuki

        So if I do lessons for 2000 yen, I’ll undercut all my competitors. Assuming I’m a decently good teacher, I could make a killing at a much higher rate than I had originally planned… thanks :)

      • doninjapan

        No offense intended Yuki, but as someone who’s just graduating – you’re not going to be a “good teacher”.

      • Blair

        Perhaps not, but if she’s enthusiastic and interesting she’ll be the kind of teacher most are hoping for

      • doninjapan

        No offense intended Yuki, but as someone who’s just graduating – you’re not going to be a “good teacher”.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        I’m afraid you really have no idea about the reality of living and working in Japan. You say you’ve been here before for visits. People who are making a living teaching privates have been here usually for a good length of time and have built up their student base. Don’t, please, imagine you’ll be able to walk out of Narita and start picking up students who don’t know you from a bar of soap. The employees agreed to work for that wage because there is next to nothing else available. If you come here with the aim of teaching, your visa will (legally) limit you to that and that alone. I suggest you pay more attention to the voices of experience here if you don’t want your cherished dream to turn into a nightmare VERY quickly.

      • http://godfather.wikia.com/wiki/Michael_Corleone The Don Michael Corleone

        “I suggest you pay more attention to the voices of experience here if you don’t want your cherished dream to turn into a nightmare VERY quickly”
        Never been truer words like these.

      • Edward Kyle

        Neither do you. You are a foreigner! You will never be accepted! Never! And that is good. My wife is Japanese. If you want to know the truth I be sure ask her and maybe, if she is not feeling particularly racist (benignly racist, of course; as most Japanese are), she will enlighten you. P.J. Lynn is most definitely a troll!

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        So because you claim you’re married to a Japanese woman, that means you know ALL there is about life in Japan? Have you ever been here yourself? Oh, and don’t worry, I don’t need to ask her (if she actually exists) about Japan’s benign racism, I experience it every day. Far from being a troll I’m just someone with a differing point of view, trying to enlighten someone who’s never been here, and looks at Japan through rose-coloured glasses.

      • J.P. Bunny

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but you really need to heed the advice given here and maybe check some of the sites inhabited by former (and current) members of the industry. The Eikaiwas and dispatch companies will do everything in their power to screw over the employees. One of my former positions promised a decent monthly salary for each month of the year, which turned into a pay per day deal, only 130 days a year.
        Japan is an expensive place to live and working for the types of places listed in the article may not even cover living expenses. Do the research.

      • David Conrad

        I absolutely disagree with J.P. Bunny. If you go in with your obviously good attitude, you will have a great time, as I did.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        You’re free to disagree, but holding up your positive experience as the norm is somewhat disingenuous to my mind. Of course a positive attitude will help, but the reality of working in Japan for, I believe, the majority is not the same as yours. I could refer you to maybe 200 friends and former colleagues if you require.

      • David Conrad

        You could, and I know they’d all have their stories of woe – it’s the norm for ALTs to be pretty grumpy folks, I saw it all the time both times I was there. But in my observation, they had little legitimate reason to be. I think Japan just attracts foreigners who are a little bit fragile for some reason.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        I came here as positive and upbeat as it was possible to be David. I’d been trying to get here for10 years. I like to think of myself, and I think most of my friends would agree, as a stable, sensible, grounded person. It’s been my experiences working here, for 17 years, for four different companies, that have formed my opinions. You had a good experience, count yourself lucky, but please, stop discounting others’ experience just because they don’t gel with yours.

      • David Conrad

        I wouldn’t characterize the majority of ALTs I knew as sensible, nor their complaints, but I exempt you from that admittedly blanket judgment. The ones I knew on my first stint were young, just out of college, and young people are prone to feelings of persecution and to overreacting. People who’ve been around for 17 years are a different breed. I knew them on my second stint. They tend to be fundamentally stranger people (no offense intended; strange can be good), and are usually people with fewer attachments at “home,” and they often have a somewhat bruised, expatriate-community quality to them. That’s what I’ve observed, and I think I’m entitled to my observations, but I acknowledge that some people have had legitimately bad experiences. I’d always, always recommend the job to people like Yuki, and encourage them not to take online ALT horror stories into account. At all.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        So in other words, with a few possible exceptions; you still believe my, my friends, and many other people’s grievances are a crock. And although your experience goes against the grain, you feel Yuki should take all our combined experience (and don’t forget, mine is 17 years and yours was, what, 2? But then again I’m “strange” by your reckoning) with a grain of salt and just listen to you? It hasn’t escaped your attention has it, that many language schools in Japan have had well documented union trouble and court cases? This is nothing to do with a “bruised expatriate quality”, but a factual, persistent failure to observe even some of the basic standing labour laws on behalf of Japanese employers in the English teaching industry, in particular with regards to foreign employees. But you had your 2 years of nirvana, so never mind.

      • J.P. Bunny

        The on-line horror stories (along with the good ones) may be the only way to actually know what the conditions are here. You may have noticed that most of these shady places now only hire from overseas, as the locals tend to know what the real deal is.

        When I came here when there were still two Germanys, the Soviet Union was an Evil Empire, and the last emperor was spry, and I have seen the rise and fall of these scuzzy companies. Grumpy I may be, but for good reason. I have experienced being screwed over by many of these places that care not how cheerful you may be, or how well you do your job. As Paul Johnny Lynn said, many language schools have been in legal hot water, with good reason. People like Yuki can come and have a great time, but they need to do their homework first.

      • ippatsuya

        Yeah and then when Sakiko cancels her lessons 10 minutes before class because she “forgot” about her overtime that day, or when Masahiro decides he can’t study any more because やっぱり私にてって英語を勉強するのは難しすぎて、ってことは、残念ですが、しばらくの間はYukiさんの素敵なレッスンをキャンセルさせていただきたいと思います, how are you gonna pay your bills that month?

      • Blair

        It’s called 月謝…So go ahead, Sakiko, I’ll have a cup of tea and enjoy the break. As for Masahiro deciding that English is too difficult for him…Take Care and sayonara, Masahiro. Being competent and having a reputation as an interesting and fun teacher, so that there is a waiting list to get into your private school, as is the case with my friend, will counter all the Masahiros that will come and go. Cheers!

    • fun_on_tv

      Do you know how expensive it is to live in Japan? Also remember there is no sick pay or holiday pay.
      1400 yen per lesson is a joke. I refuse to do any lessons that pay less than 3,000 yen. Please remember that you need a degree from a university in order to get a visa to work in this field. I don’t think that is necessary as more of the work is fairly simple.
      Luckily for me I work in a medium sized city. So I don’t have work for the big chains. I have plenty of private work paying 3,000 to 5,000 yen.

    • David Conrad

      “Making almost two thousand dollars a month is a really good salary when the bonus is that you get to live in japan.”

      Agreed.

      • doninjapan

        Before tax/fees.

      • David Conrad

        I’ve lived there and done it, twice. I know. It’s a bargain. For the ALT and for their employer.

      • doninjapan

        I live here now David (not working in the industry any more tho’ – thankfully)… salaries have gone down considerably over the past few years. BOEs don’t offer paid holidays any more (most ALTs get paid over a 9 month period, but the salary is doled out by their company over 12 months).

        As far as ALTs/eikawa go, BOE direct employs are a pretty good gig, but those are few and far between.

      • David Conrad

        My wife was doing it less than two years ago. I’m just completely unmoved by these old complaints, which were standard when I was first doing the gig 10 years ago. For what you’re getting (a chance to live in an insular but beautiful country where visas are hard to come by) and what you’re doing (not much if it’s anything like me and the vast majority of ALTs I knew), I think it’s a steal.

      • CLJF

        Not having a dig at you David, but it’s these very gigs in which people get paid to do, as you say, “not much” that reinforce the already negative image people in Japan have of English teachers in general. That is unfortunate and unfair for those teachers who are committed to their work, highly competent and put in a lot of effort.

      • David Conrad

        I never felt that Japanese people had a negative view of English teachers in general. Quite the contrary. And their opinion of ALTs particularly is a lot higher, in general, than it really should be considering the kind of complaining most ALTs do, as exhibited in this post and its comments.

        Re don, I don’t think your experience “now” is substantially different from less than two years ago, which is why I reminded you of how recently I was there. Trying to shut down the conversation like you’re doing is lame.

        2000 a month – hell, a lot less than that – is great pay for what the gig is and what Japan has to offer.

      • CLJF

        If you’ve assumed I’m an ALT (or work at an eikaiwa), then your assumption is wrong and your generalization here is invalid.

      • doninjapan

        David? I’m here… *now*.

        I’m not doing it either, by the way. But I have friends who are – and 2000 dollars a month is bloody awful.

    • blondein_tokyo

      You are right, Yuki. It IS a good salary for doing nothing more than chatting with a group of people in your native language.
      When you arrive, you will no doubt join the ranks of the incompetants and add to lowering the bar for edcuational standards, and have a great time not doing much work for a nice salary that you will drink up every month.
      Nihon yokoso!

      • jcbinok

        That’s a bit harsh. It’s true that the classes themselves (“chatting” as you call it) should be fun if you’re doing it right. That doesn’t lessen the fact that ALT’s have to commute to far-flung schools (between 11-37 kilometers, for me) and deliver the goods to classes of up to 40 kids. I don’t know when the last time you stood in front of a classroom of 38 eight-year-olds, but having just done it yesterday, I can assure you it ain’t easy!

      • blondein_tokyo

        It’s not easy, no. But can you say with certainty that you’re doing a job that requires specialised skills and knowledge? At a level deserving more than what the article states ALTs get paid? Absolutely, some ALTs have qualifications they’ve worked hard to get, and do even more work preparing lessons and making materials than the teacher does. I’ve known a lot of ALTs who genuinely care about their students and want to do a good job. Unfortunate for every ALT that knows what they’re doing, there’s one who doesn’t, and two who show up and think that’s all they need to do.

        And how about eikaiwa teachers? How many of them do more than show up and teach a lazy lesson that requires zero prep because they do it from a text or using a “method” foisted on them by the school?

        I was in eikaiwa for quite a number of years. If they make 250,000 that’s a good salary.

    • Robby

      You haven’t even graduated yet. Have you had a full time job? Have you lived in a foreign country? Do you know how high the turnover rate is? So many kids fresh out of college come and can’t handle living in a foreign country and having a full time job and end up quitting in a short period of time. Get some experience before commenting on an article like this.

      • David Conrad

        I had the same great attitude and probably the same experience Yuki did before I went to Japan, and I had a wonderful time.

    • overmage

      Lol welcome to hell, enjoy your stay.

      • Blair

        There’s always Starbucks or Walmart to go back to

      • overmage

        Yup, just not in Japan hahaha

        (you’ll need at least business level Japanese to do baito in Starbucks Japan / any customer service job at any rate)

      • Blair

        because there’ll be such a glut of workers with the shrinking population…

      • overmage

        Japan doesn’t care. They would rather sink and burn

      • Blair

        Burning is what Europe is doing in the throes of social unrest

      • Alex _

        No, you damn cretin. Europe is in much better shape than Japan, and its 250% of GDP debt. Not to mention, the aging, dying population. Not to mention the horrible, rote rather than reason, education system. The west always had superior education system from Japan. Stop being a F**** blinded Japanophile and accept the facts.

      • Blair

        You might want to check how Japan performs in international testing in Maths and Science

      • Alex _

        You might want to see how many nobel prizes in science went to Americans, or generally, to westerners.

    • jcbinok

      It’s true that a single person in good health could pocket some money working as an ALT, but it would take at least two years due to start-up costs, like about $1,500 dollars to get set up in an apartment (by the way, you’ll need a guarantor). Gas is about $5 a gallon, milk is more than that, and if you want to go back to your home country for a visit…$1,500.

  • fun_on_tv

    Generally I avoid the big chains. ECC kindergarden work was very good. 3,500 yen per hour and preparation/cleaning up time was paid for.
    Quit Nova in 2005 and I have never looked back.

  • fun_on_tv

    Generally I avoid the big chains. ECC kindergarden work was very good. 3,500 yen per hour and preparation/cleaning up time was paid for.
    Quit Nova in 2005 and I have never looked back.

  • blondein_tokyo

    The eikaiwa teachers make a decent salary considering a) the amound of actual work they do; and b) they don’t usually have any real teaching qualifications.

    In any other educational system, you’d need at minimum a master’s in the subject you teach, as well as keep up with current findings in your field. At eikaiwas like Nova, all that`s needed is a 4 year degree, in any subject, and a decent personality. They don’t have to understand SLA theory or even methodology, since they just follow a textbook and use the prescribed method that the school trains them to use. Literally anyone could do it, after a few short training sessions. As for prep, there is very little of that because once they know the textbook well enough, they can teach the lessons from memory.

    As for ALTs, it really depends on where they work and who their co-teacher is. I know ALTs who do almost nothing other than act as a human tape recorder, while others are expected to take over planning as well as materials creation. They wind up doing their job plus the co-teacher’s job, all as unpaid overtime.

    There are teachers who work hard to expand their knowledge, get advanced degrees, are creative, and do their best to help their students learn. Then there are those who coast though and do the absolute minimum. The ones who work hard are the ones who deserve long term contracts, benefits, and more pay; unfortunately, this factor is never taken into consideration. Often the only thing that matters to their employer is that they show up and don’t cause trouble. The employers treat all the teachers the same, and often wind up firing the experienced ones to cut costs, and keep the bad ones who then quit soon after to make way for the next incompetent idiot.

    In other words, the system is set up to favor lazy incompentents over hard-working, knowledgable professionals. Since these lazy incompetants have pretty much taken over, the bar has been set so low that Japanese have come to expect sub-par lessons, while thinking they are getting a quality education. The result is people who can’t speak English despite years of study. And that, my dears, is why the education system is so screwed up to the point where it is nearly un-fixable.
    If the government *really* wants to fix the English education system, they need to stop offering these “specialist” visas to people who aren’t specialists, and instead require them to have a masters in TESOL, linguistics, or education. Then they need to ensure these people join the healhcare system and pension system by outlawing the loophole of 29.5 hour workweeks that keeps them from full-time status. That alone would force a lot of these so-called “eikaiwa” out of business, since they would not be able to afford to pay the costs.
    But that isn’t likely to happen. This problem isn’t exactly a priority of lawmakers. They pay lip service to becoming “international”, but they honestly have no clue how to go about it, nor do I think they really want to.
    All I can say to eikaiwa instructors is: have fun in Japan, but don’t take it too seriously. If you want to be a real professional, then get your degree and get out of here.

    • fun_on_tv

      I enjoy my work too much. I don’t have Masters. Didn’t try, but found it unhelpful and very dry. 4 year degrees are requirement for countries that have them. In the UK, it’s 3 years.
      Moving on, yes there are many chancers over here and they do annoy the hell out of me.
      The main problem is that the parents and education system aren’t geared for conversational English. English is one of many hoops you have to jump through. As a result no one knows what “good” is. Japan is a country that loves tests. I get upset when I see students who do well in English, but don’t study after a few years because the parents don’t see any value in it.
      Sadly, I don’t see any big changes coming anytime soon. I shouldn’t complain every time the government makes changes I get more students.

      • jcbinok

        Define: “chancers.”

      • fun_on_tv

        People who go through the motions. They follow the teachers guide to the letter. Don’t think about their students. For example when I have phonics homework, I do a quick group activity to check my students ability to read. Other teachers I have met simply say well done ad don’t bother to check.
        This particular situation became problematic because the students transfer to my class and struggled with the lessons. My students got bored because the lessons became too easy. In the end they were transferred out because it was too difficult to bridge the gap.
        The annoying thing about it was that I used those students. So I know they should have been at a similar level to my students.

    • Habidaccus

      I can’t say I agree with the hubris behind labeling a large percentage of eikaiwa teachers as incompetents, nor do I think that is solely what has caused the downturn of the industry. Have terrible teachers made students jaded? Certainly. But the very style of teaching that eikaiwas peddle is definitely more at fault.

      When you consider that almost all of the big schools combine the role of teacher with salesperson, you’re confusing students right off the bat. It becomes very difficult to trust someone who is essentially trying to get you to spend more money beyond your already ludicrous tuition fees. As for the teachers themselves thinking outside of the box, that is often hard to do when the school mandates that you follow a specific format. Of course, this too contributes to teachers feeling disillusioned. I know I didn’t feel right about trying to sell overpriced textbooks to students! I also didn’t like trying to push them to sign up for another course I knew that they couldn’t complete, but that was part of our job description.

      Combine this with the very sad truth that for a lot of students, there is literally no hope of them making any real progress. They are either too busy or unmotivated to put in the time that requires you to learn a language. Many students think that if they take one lesson a week, they will magically be able to speak English within a year. This of course, doesn’t happen, and they quit.

      So to end, while some students don’t improve because their teachers are bad, the main reason lies in the educational system outside of eikaiwa, as well as the unalterable curriculums these companies create.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Incompetent means unqualified and amateurish, so yes, a large percentage of eikaiwa teachers and ALTs are incompetent. If you do not have a qualification, you are unqualified by definition. That is why eikaiwa push their “methods” onto the teachers so strongly – the teachers don’t know how to teach, and wouldn’t have a clue about what to do in class without having a model to follow.

        The teachers who work freelance are probably the worst of all, since they get no supervision and no training. Eikaiwa at least TRY to give their teachers training, even if it isn’t at industry standard. At any rate, the only qualified professionals working in Japan today are those who have full instructor status at schools and universities, since those require at least a master’s degree, as well as some experience. Smart teachers start out in eikaiwa, get experience and work on a qualification, then move on. That is what I would advise to anyone who wants better pay – do your CELTA or Delta, then your master’s, and get the hell out of eikaiwa.

        I would also not say that is what *solely* caused the downturn, because quality has always been bad. The economy is the culprit, since the real problem is that all business has taken an downturn. Ekaiwa caters mainly to people with disposable income, e.g., housewives, young workers who travel, and business people who need English for work. Those people no longer can afford to study just for a hobby and companies are also cutting their household budgets, so employees aren’t getting company subsidies to study anymore. ALTs are needed in schools more than ever, but schools don’t have the budgets they used to, either.

        Making English education into a business is the real problem. When the economy takes a downturn, unfortunately so does English education. The only way to remedy this is to require teachers to have degrees, which would put most eikaiwa and places like Interac out of business, and put the job of hiring teachers into the hands of people who are actually qualified to judge the competency of the instructors. Quality of teachers goes up; quantity of teachers goes down; then pay will increase again.

        I doubt it will ever happen, though. Like I said: it’s not the government’s top priority, and honestly? I don’t think anyone even recognizes that this is a problem in the first place. Quality has always been bad; the bar is set way too low, so no one who can do anything about it even realizes how poor English education in this country really is.

      • Habidaccus

        Can’t debate you on whether or not teachers are qualified or not, but thanks for the clarification on your usage of incompetent. That being said, I would hesitate to define someone with a teaching degree as the only legitimate sort of teaching instructor.

        But for all of your other points here, I’m inclined to agree. Eikaiwa is a terrible industry if you actually want to become a perfect speaker. It is certainly possible to find a good teacher, but the model of how classes are run by companies is awful.

      • Horgh

        Ah the myth of teachers…

        For many individuals around the world, teachers are individuals with a decent amount of knowledge in a given field who will hopefully refrain from using physical violence when dealing with unruly children.

        As a university student I remember meeting a group who had just recently given up on their dreams of becoming highly paid accountants to join the primary education programme.

        You see their teachers had been clear that only the best will find gainful employment in large, important firms as the rest would find themselves filling tax reports for random Joe Lunchpails. Given the amount of work and effort (not to mention stiff competition and demanding, rigorous testing) involved in obtaining the more interesting positions following graduation, these would-be accountants decided that their time might be better spent aiming for a more achievable goal.

        Back home we need teachers and we need them BAD. See, educated folks don’t like sticking around “the backwoods” in Canada. As with everywhere else, teachers grow old and retire, but who’ll take over?

        The would-be accountants were not so much interested in education as in having a fairly routine job that pays well enough, offers benefits, and doesn’t require the amount of efforts their former major did.

        I’d say a lot of the folks who taught me as a youth shared this general lack of enthusiasm for their work. It’s a job and it pays the bills. My math teachers weren’t gushing with joy at the thought of telling us all about algebra nor did my language teachers show much motivation to innovate. Although there was that one crazy French teacher who went ballistic one day and started accusing a student of being an agent of Satan and corrupting influence on the youth of today.

        A cousing of mine found a teaching position in a post-secondary institution (CEGEP) despite holding only a bachelor’s degree. Her professional experience at the time was limited, but the higher you go the harder it is to find qualified staff.

        I learned a hard lesson back in my pre-Japan days: you don’t always get to pick and choose the best, and sometimes you have to do with 6th or even 7th best… if that…

      • ProjektKobra

        “An agent of Satan.”

        You sir, just made a friend.

      • Horgh

        For what it’s worth, said crazy teacher’s wife was also a teacher of mine. She taught religion. Ah yes, a little background for those who didn’t grow up in Quebec province before the 2000’s.

        See, education was once the co-owned responsibility of the State and the Catholic religious institutions with both working together to ensure a loyal, passive population. The State eventually kicked the church out of the schools but religion as a subject stuck around for quite some time.

        Until some time in the 2005, religion was a semi-mandatory subject in Quebece’s secondary education. Yes, unless mom and dad opted to have you do the “ethics” class, you had to be taught about Jesus once a week.

        I attended a State organized information session on the plans to abolish religious education and met up with my old teacher and his wife. He was quite furious and accused the reps of being dangerous fanatics who would lead the province’s children into the arms of Satan and drugs.

        Oh and speaking of incompetence, my then English teacher didn’t know that midnight was 12AM arguing that it was 12PM.

      • jcbinok

        Thing is, I wouldn’t even consider being a teacher back home. The amount of extra work: testing, filling out IEP’s, parent-teacher conferences, etc., plus the low amount of pay (not much more than ALT’S) and respect given to teachers…no thanks.

      • Jenna

        I sort of agree and disagree with both of you (just so you know where I’m coming from, I live in Taiwan, not Japan, but the situation is similar which is why I’m reading this at all. I have *just* completed a Delta and am simply waiting on the piece of paper that says I have it. So I can say I am qualified).

        Generally I’m with blondein_tokyo – sure, qualifications don’t *necessarily* equal good teaching, and unqualified teachers might be pretty good. But…taken more generally, the quality of teaching from qualified teachers is, as a rule, higher than unqualified ones. There are certainly exceptions, but as a whole one group is clearly better at their job and more effective than the other. And the difference is quite clear and quite observable.

        And those who want to be professional really do need to seek out professional development – it does show a lazy lack of commitment, or simply a lack of caring and respect, for your chosen field, which *is* a professional field (education) and at times an academic one (Applied Linguistics). I have little respect and no sympathy for not seeking out any CPD you can afford if you want to be in this industry.

        However, the cost really is high. It took me 3 years to get a Delta because I couldn’t afford Module 2 for the longest time. That really shouldn’t be the case, and a lot of these programs (Delta included) really need to consider their market – English teachers aren’t known for their vast stores of wealth! I don’t have a Master’s yet – but will someday – because I’m American. That means I wasn’t born in a country with affordable postgraduate education. I’d have to go into debt even to go to State U. Simply put, I cannot afford a Master’s, but I need to get one at some point, because I can’t abide spending the rest of my professional life in Taiwan’s (or another country’s) equivalent of an eikaiwa.

        So I can understand why it takes awhile for a teacher to go ahead and do CPD.

        In Taiwan I advocate for allowing uncertified “teachers” to come for one or two years, but requiring that, to continue to get a visa to work in a school after that they must at least get a CELTA. I advocate for incentivizing schools to help fund it (and for a CELTA course to be held in Taiwan). These uncertified teachers would *only* be allowed to work at schools that provided approved training (how to set up a body to approve it is another matter, but it would need to be done). Anyone staying past one or two years who went through that would be entitled to full-time salaried work, and schools would be put on notice that they were under scrutiny so as to discourage ‘letting people go’ right before all that kicked in just to avoid paying more for better teachers.

        That way newbies who might turn out to be talented teachers could come and try out the job, and be sure to get training that would make them a competent teacher, and if they liked the work they could go on and become an actual professional in the field, with a decent job to match.

        But, the chances of that happening in Taiwan are about as slim as those of it happening in Japan. Less so, because we don’t even have a union.

      • jcbinok

        I agree that studying a foreign language one hour a week is not enough to gain proficiency. I have heard, though, that English lessons will be happening twice a week in elementary schools starting in the near future. A private eikaiwa lesson on top of that (thus, three hours per week) could actually be enough for a motivated student to make progress.

      • Horgh

        French Canadians in Quebec get English from a very early age, are surrounded by the language (well, less so now that satellite TV provides them with more than 3 French language channels, including one from France), benefit from speaking a language relatively close to English (shared alphabet and large amount of vocab, along with somewhat similar basic grammar and logic e.g. SVO) and yet still suck at English for the most part – even more so outside of Montreal.

        I surmise negative attitudes stemming from the heavy history between France and England in the colonies are to blame. I recall growing up and hearing fwellow students complain about English and how it was the language of the enemy.

        I didn’t become fluent through school or even through teachers (as my previous post suggests many were incompetent dopes hired because no one else could fill the void) but through my bilingual cousins (they went to French school in Ontario but spoke English with friends) whom I wished to emulate. That and Saturday morning cartoons were pretty badass in the 80’s and some took ages to get a French translation.

    • Bruce Chatwin

      “In any other educational system, you’d need at minimum a master’s in the subject you teach”
      I think you’ll find that in Europe all that is required to teach for a private language school is a Bachelors degree and CELTA certification or its equivalent.
      Incidentally, I don’t believe that education requirements for teachers/instructors in universities are codified. The requirements are up to the institutions or even the departments in those institutions.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Having Celta meets only the very minimum requirements of particular individual institutions…and eikaiwa teachers and ALTs often don’t even have that.

        It’s also hard to argue that a bare minimum qualification equals proficiency.

        But yes….it’s a start.

      • Bruce Chatwin

        You claim that “In any other educational system, you’d need at minimum a master’s in the subject you teach”.

        Codswallop.

      • blondein_tokyo

        We aren’t talking about teaching English as a subject to high school students. We’re talking about TESOL and TEFL, which are completely different and require specialized knowledge.

        Until recently, BA courses in TESOL/TEFL didn’t even exist – it was only offered as a post-graduate course. With the advent of English as a lingua franca, and interest of people traveling abroad to teach, there are now a few colleges offering a four year degree.

        In addition, while the vast majority of English teachers in Japan have at least a bachelor’s, it’s not in TESOL/TEFL or even English. They’re teaching English with a completely disparate degree, which gives them no qualification to teach TESOL.

    • CLJF

      And I can’t say I agree with the thinking that automatically and in all cases equates having a teaching qualification with being a good (capable and effective) teacher. There are teachers with teaching qualifications who are not effective, engaging teachers. There are also teachers without teaching qualifications who are very effective and engaging teachers.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I’m not going to argue with you. Any teacher worth their salt would commit to becoming better educated. There’s simply no excuse a teacher can give for refusing to learn more about their job – only laziness, and a total lack of professional ethics.

        If a teacher is already good, then they can always become *better* – the very definition of professionalism is continuously updating and adding to your skills. And I don’t see how anyone can argue that education is unnecessary to gain skills – now that would be pure hubris.

        And that hubris – that one feels free to call oneself a “teacher” despite not having professional qualifications and a lack of interest in gaining them – is exactly what is wrong with the eikaiwa industry.

        In no other feild involving education else would someone dare make the statement that education is unnecessary.

        Japan is the only place people would be able get away with such an idiotic stance.

        English “teacher”, indeed…

      • CLJF

        Actually, lack of financial resources is quite a legitimate reason not being being able to get further qualifications (as in degrees, etc.), given how much institutions charge for these things. There are many other avenues for professional development and teachers should by all means pursue these.

      • CLJF

        Actually, lack of financial resources is quite a legitimate reason not being being able to get further qualifications (as in degrees, etc.), given how much institutions charge for these things. There are many other avenues for professional development and teachers should by all means pursue these.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Excuses are just excuses. Celta doesn’t cost that much, and while Delta and uni degrees are more expensive, if you save up you can make it. There are also payment options that will work within your budget.

        People do advanced degrees while working a full time job -all the time-. The only real excuse anyone has is that they just don’t don’t want to work that hard.

        Which is fine. People can coast though life if they like. But that is what they are doing – coasting.

      • CLJF

        And generalisations are generalisations. Every person’s circumstances are different, though you certainly don’t exhibit any recognition of that. I’ve done two degrees while working full time but my employment circumstances allowed. Some people’s don’t.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Too true! I have a friend who works 4 eikaiwa jobs because she has a lazy, do-nothing husband and two kids to support. She has no clear way to improve her situation.
        Don’t get me wrong…I do have empathy for people in that kind of situation, e.g., those with kids/family. It’s the party-party, spend-all-my-money-on-booze people that I was mainly thinking of when I wrote that post. I know more than a few teachers who COULD afford to get qualifications, but they just don’t do it. Too lazy, no real interest, and having too much fun coasting.

    • GeneralObvious

      I’d have to disagree with you. In America you are required to have a master’s degree in whatever you are teaching and that is a recent change. In Japan public school teacher’s are required to have only a bachelor’s degree in education and pass a licensing examination.

      I do agree with you though; I am not an ALT. I am basically a full-time English teacher. I work in the public school system and the home teachers do little to nothing. Lessons are planned and lead entirely on my own. This has to be the title because of Japanese law however. I believe in Japan public school teachers must be Japanese nationals and be able to pass the licensing examination, both of which would be nearly impossible for 99% of all alts. This is compounded by the fact that foreigners must renounce their home country’s citizenship, because Japan does not allow dual-citizenship.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I’m not sure how you can disagree with facts. In the US as well as the UK, Oz, and Canada, if you want to teach English in any capacity you have to have a masters degree, and that has been the case for a very long time. With Celta or Delta you might find part time work, but at the pay equivalent of working in eikaiwa in Japan.

        At any rate, there is no way to argue against the fact that a teacher with an education is a better teacher. With solid knowledge of SLA and methodology, you simply are more effective.

        The Japanese teachers here who teach English are also under qualified to teach it, which is why Japanese people cannot speak English even though they have studied it for 4-8 years.

        As I said to another poster, any teacher worth their salt would do their
        utmost to update their knowledge and become better at their job. Not
        doing do is a sign of laziness at best, incompetency at worst. There are
        far too many “teachers” who are actually making things *worse* for their students because
        they are teaching their students bad habits, de-motivating them, and causing them to
        fossilize at a very low level.

        You don’t need to take a Japanese licensing exam, by the way. These days you can take Celta, Delta, and masters courses online, and there are payment options that will work within your budget. There’s also JALT, which holds conferences yearly as well as many free lectures. You can also get subscriptions to teaching journals.

        There’s no excuse to not to upgrade your skills. Gambatte. :)

      • Bruce Chatwin

        Once again you claim that “if you want to teach English in any capacity you have to have a masters degree, and that has been the case for a very long time.”
        English teachers in public schools in Canada do not, to the best of my knowledge, have to have a masters degree, as you claim. If you have some sources to support your claim, please provide them.

      • 6810

        Yes, Blonde is full of hyperbole and blunder and short on facts as usual. Masters degrees are not required for teaching in public schools in Australia either.

        Could Blonde be incorrect about many, many, many other things too?

      • jimbo jones

        careful, only racists and sexists disagree with her

      • blondein_tokyo

        Though people commonly just call it “Teaching English”, there IS a difference between a degree in English, a degree in Linguistics, and a degree in TESOL and TEFL.

        A degree in English is not going to qualify you to teach TEFL/TESOL.

        And the subject of these posts, as I’ve already pointed out, is teaching TESOL/TEFL – not English.

        I’m sure you realize that in order to be qualified to teach something, you need a degree in thing you want to teach – not a completely different subject, yes?

      • tokyoguy01

        you really can’t be that dense, can you?

      • YoDude12

        You are so arrogant and uninformed. I have taught English language, English literature, and other “forms” of English in international and US military schools in more than 5 schools on 3 different continents. I am speaking of IB World accredited, Western Association of Schools and Colleges accredited, and schools accredited by other international and local accrediting bodies. I don’t have a “degree” in English blonseintokyo, but I certainly have enough university credit to have one, in addition to my two bachelor degrees and my master degree. Many, if not most national systems from English-speaking nations leave it to states, provinces, or territories to decide teaching qualification. Would you like me to continue to go through the list of subjects I don’t have a “degree” in that I teach, but am fully certified to do so? Prove me wrong!
        I rarely ever bother to comment anywhere in The Japan Times, but reading the crap you like to spread is nauseous.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Though people commonly just call it “Teaching English”, there IS a difference between a degree in English, a degree in Linguistics, and a degree in TESOL and TEFL.

        A degree in English is not going to qualify you to teach TEFL/TESOL.

        And the subject of these posts, as I’ve already pointed out, is teaching TESOL/TEFL – not English.

        I’m sure you realize that in order to be qualified to teach something, you need a degree in thing you want to teach – not a completely different subject, yes?

      • tokyoguy01

        she never really has a good grasp of any topic that she discusses and needs to take a remedial course on reading comprehension.

      • skillet

        Blonde is ok.

        I just do not agree with any of her ideas. She is fun to argue with. Sometime when you are bored, the only thing you can do to make the time go by faster is bicker.

        That;s why I am glad the thread has Blonde.

        I can appreciate her because I have a life philosophy.

      • Laura

        That varies by state. I got a secondary English teaching credential with just a BA in Anthropology.

      • blondein_tokyo

        TEFL?

      • Laura

        No, not needed. Besides, TEFL is for teaching English as a Foreign Language, which is different than teaching it as a Second language, which is what you would be teaching to kids in an English-speaking country.

      • blondein_tokyo

        That’s what I thought. And yes, that’s why I asked. The topic here is qualifications for teaching English as a foreign language, TEFL, in Japan.

        Another point is that teaching English to speakers of other languages, TESOL, is different from a degree in teaching English as a subject in elementary or high schools in the US.

        It seems people don’t understand that.

      • Laura

        Yes, I know we’re talking about Japan, BUT I was specifically responding to your statement of ” In the US as well as the UK, Oz, and Canada, if you want to teach English in any capacity you have to have a masters degree, and that has been the case for a very long time.”

        However, even in Japan, there are no teaching qualifications for many English teaching jobs and the only reason the 4 year degree is necessary is for the visa. Hell, I’ve worked at a university where fellow English teachers don’t have more than a BA in an unrelated field – no TEFL, CELTA, or other certificates.

        And, I don’t have a degree in English. I never said I do. I have a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Education and TESOL. I have a California teaching credential for secondary English, but I teach English as a language here in Japan at a university.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Teach English, as in teach it as a language – not as a subject. I don’t know of anywhere in the US, UK, etc that you can teach English as a language unless you have a master’s. Do you?

        BA programs in TESOL are rare, and while I’m sure some schools/unis might accept that if you have experience, the vast majority require a master’s. The standards there are much higher than they are here in Asia.

        And yes – In Japan (and most of Asia) you only need a 4 yr. degree and a visa. That’s the problem – since most teachers here aren’t qualified, the bar has been set so low that most people don’t see teaching as a real skill, so it’s hardly surprising that salaries for eikaiwa and ALTs have gone down with the tanking of the economy that was fueling the eikaiwa industry.

        That’s not going to change anytime soon, either. If a person wants to make a decent salary working as an English teacher in Japan, they will need to get higher qualifications, because they will have to get out of eikaiwa/ALT.

      • Laura

        I can’t speak for the UK, but in the US, you can most definitely get an ESL job without a Master’s. Now, that may vary by state, but certainly in California is is possible. You are more marketable with an MA, certainly, and you can get more cushy positions, but you can get employment without one. I certainly did before getting my MA and many of my friends are still happily working in K-12 and adult education ESL with no MA.

        TESOL BAs are not so rare, as a quick Google search will tell you.

        Back to Japan, however, Eikaiwa and ALT teachers aren’t likely to have the qualifications of a vested educator because many of them are just there for some international experience and serve more as cultural ambassadors than serious educators. That is what they are hired for, when all is said and done. Eikaiwa is nothing more than a specialized juku and ALTs in the K-12 system are not full teachers, but “assistant” (though ESID, officially, their rank is assistant). Those serious about teaching generally use that field as experience or to get a foot in the door. So, of course you’re not going to get people with strong qualifications flooding the ranks. They’re basically at the level of a tutor, and paid and treated accordingly. That’s why anyone with qualifications looks for other jobs such as direct hire to being an English teacher (not assistant) or to the university level.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Interesting! From what I had been told by several people, it was very difficult, if not impossible, for them to get an ESL job with only a BA in the US. Thanks for the clarification.

        The rest of what you’re saying is all too true. I don’t see many ALTs or eikaiwa teachers who are very interested in getting more qualifications. They seem happy with what they are doing, but want more pay and better benefits.

        Why not get qualifications, and move up? Why not get qualifications, and leave? Maybe they don’t care enough, and are fine with coasting. In which case, I can only say, that is their choice and they are the ones who have to live with it.

        But even without qualifications, no one deserves to be treated the way some of these places treat their teachers, as though they are fully disposable and have no value to the company at all. The companies are still making bank by exploiting the image of a “native teacher” all the while denying their teachers full time status, holidays, and other benefits that they give their Japanese staff.

        I’ve heard some horrible stories. I don’t understand why they put up with that just to live in Japan.

      • NattG0

        I really do my best when I try to teach and communicate often with the teachers how I can improve. Truth be told I considered getting a CELTA but then I thought, what’s the incentive? Yes I like my students, schools and I do care but I also have to make a living. I do a lot of outside tutoring to help make my living less stressful but I still have money I need to send home among other things. Therefore, knowing that I would spend all this money for a CELTA but not be rewarded with gauranteed better pay at my current company, or if I left, even possibly only a slightly better chance of getting a higher paying teaching job… kind of made the idea less appealing. I feel guilty though. I know I’m not qualified and I do my best to make up for it by learning different things or asking for advice, it’s come to a point though that if I want to stay in Japan (which I do because it’s become my home) I need to start looking at other options where I know I can grow within the company or have better chance at it then with an ALT job.

        Which makes me think that it would be nice if companies gave employees the chance to grow, learn more, become qualified, and reward their efforts in trying to improve that we could improve the quality of teachers and teaching. Maybe this would lead to more positive changes within the education system.

      • YoDude12

        Funny how your story keeps changing…
        “I don’t know of anywhere in the US, UK, etc that you can teach English as a language unless you have a master’s.”
        Now its, “From what I had been told by several people, it was very difficult, if not impossible, for them to get an ESL job with only a BA in the US.”

        What’s next? Okay, I am done trolling you, but you would be more creditable if you actually knew more about what you profess to be well-versed in.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Yeah, funny how I’m so wiling to admit when I’m wrong, isn’t it? :)

      • blondein_tokyo

        Yeah, funny how I fully admit when I’m wrong. I mean, who does that? Other than people who are honest, you know?

      • blondein_tokyo

        Teach English, as in teach it as a language – not as a subject. I don’t know of anywhere in the US, UK, etc that you can teach English as a language unless you have a master’s. Do you?

        BA programs in TESOL are rare, and while I’m sure some schools/unis might accept that if you have experience, the vast majority require a master’s. The standards there are much higher than they are here in Asia.

        And yes – In Japan (and most of Asia) you only need a 4 yr. degree and a visa. That’s the problem – since most teachers here aren’t qualified, the bar has been set so low that most people don’t see teaching as a real skill, so it’s hardly surprising that salaries for eikaiwa and ALTs have gone down with the tanking of the economy that was fueling the eikaiwa industry.

        That’s not going to change anytime soon, either. If a person wants to make a decent salary working as an English teacher in Japan, they will need to get higher qualifications, because they will have to get out of eikaiwa/ALT.

      • YoDude12

        Blondeintokyo cannot remember what she writes. She backs herself into a corner due to her sheer arrogance, then does a dance to try to get herself out of her dilemma. Just wait, she will attack soon!

      • Laura

        Yes, I know we’re talking about Japan, BUT I was specifically responding to your statement of ” In the US as well as the UK, Oz, and Canada, if you want to teach English in any capacity you have to have a masters degree, and that has been the case for a very long time.”

        However, even in Japan, there are no teaching qualifications for many English teaching jobs and the only reason the 4 year degree is necessary is for the visa. Hell, I’ve worked at a university where fellow English teachers don’t have more than a BA in an unrelated field – no TEFL, CELTA, or other certificates.

        And, I don’t have a degree in English. I never said I do. I have a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Education and TESOL. I have a California teaching credential for secondary English, but I teach English as a language here in Japan at a university.

      • YoDude12

        Not really. I could have 50 master-level credits in ESOL (call it what you want), not have a “degree” in ESOL, and be just as qualified as I need to be to teach ESOL.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I think you’ve mistaken me for someone who like to pointlessly argue. :)

      • blondein_tokyo

        TEFL?

      • Laura

        That depends on the state. California doesn’t require an MA, nor.does AR. I haven’t read up on other states.

      • LaikaCatMeow

        You do not need a Masters to be a school teacher in the states. This is 100% false. Most states just require a credential, which can be earned while working. My friend only has a BA and is currently a teacher in Los Angeles. If you needed a Masters, why would we have Teach for America and other programs that recruit undergraduates to teach…???

      • jcbinok

        I think in New York, teachers can start with just a Bachelor’s degree, but must begin (finish?) a Master’s within five years.

    • Brian Southwick

      Blondein_Tokyo, it is not the case that “in any other educational (sic) system, you’d need at minimum a master’s degree in the subject you teach…” The US state I am from, Louisiana, offers full-time positions to teachers with just a baccalaureate degree.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Thank you for the correction. :)

        Are you speaking of ESL, btw? Or other subjects?

      • blondein_tokyo

        Thank you for the correction. :)

        Are you speaking of ESL, btw? Or other subjects?

    • leconfidant

      I spotted the pattern you describe quite early.

      I prepare lessons for the serious students,
      but I know when I’m babysitting a salariman
      who just doesn’t want to go home to his wife
      and I know not to challenge them with actual work.

      An experienced teacher isn’t the best educator,
      but one who knows what the student wants,
      (whether the student knows this or not)
      and reserves their energy for students who are interested in learning.

      I agree that lawmakers don’t want Japan to go international at all,
      It contradicts their whole sense of what life’s about.

  • Toolonggone

    Nothing is worse than offering English teaching practice under business management. Employers find little difficulty in evading accountability like charter-chain schools and vouchers. Eikaiwa schools are, by design, bubble-gum schools that are easy to get burst but re-produced like zombie.

  • http://www.crisscrosschopsticks.blogspot.com Carl O’Brien

    Of course there will always be those who are here in Japan to see the country, visit others, and work a little to cover expenses. That’s great. Nothing wrong with that. There are also those who come to Japan to see the country, gain some experiences, and then go back to their home countries to start their careers. That’s also fine. But, then there are people who come to Japan, like it, and have decided to stay. They want jobs that will pay the bills with enough leftover for savings, but since these teaching jobs are made for non-permanent workers, and for all the reasons stated in the article, it’s impossible to raise a family here on one income, or even one-and-a-half incomes, in case both parents want to work.
    This philosophy that the companies have that makes English-teaching in Japan, as one commenter put it, “…a revolving door…” goes against the government’s desire to have quality English education and the globalization that it yearns for. How is Japan going to support it’s diminishing workforce by bringing in immigrants, if it has such poor, transient contracts for it’s arguably biggest group of foreign workers? Why would an international couple live in Japan, where one works full-time and the other has a low-paying job, when they can live in the other’s home country and both get decent jobs?
    The author of this article was obviously angry and frustrated when it was written, but the problems it illustrates are true. It may take a crash in the English educational system to force the companies to change, but if the minds of the Japanese and the policies their lawmakers write don’t address the problems, then there is nothing to keep corporations for doing it again.

    • doninjapan

      I agree with you Carl… but it’s not *all* English education. There’s a very, very small percentage (percentile? fraction-thereof?) working in private schools… IB schools… who aren’t sharing this experience – and are (at least in part, if not in entirety) quite successful at producing ‘speakers of English’. Thankfully… and whilst it’s not growing fast enough, it *is* growing.

      • http://www.crisscrosschopsticks.blogspot.com Carl O’Brien

        You’re right. That’s a good point. My wife used to work for an English-only kindergarten here in Nara. They produced really good English-speakers. I should have been more precise. Private English-schools seem to be great, since they are selling their “product” based upon the quality. I guess, to be more precise, I should say that the problem mainly lies in contract-companies and some of the bigger eikaiwas.

  • Roy Warner

    Foreigners are not alone. Vast numbers of Japanese workers face similarly tenuous working conditions as contingent employees. For non-Japanese to survive here it will be necessary to have or develop skills that are in demand. Simply having a B.A. and being a native speaker of English will not be sufficient, the world having a surplus of both. At minimum, full professional Japanese language ability should be cultivated. I can attest that there are many opportunities in IT fields. If teaching English is what one can do, then I’m told there are opportunities in higher education for those holding at least a master’s degree. Friends tell me this pays better, even for contingent workers, than private English schools.

  • Kenny Kusinas

    People are trying to make careers out of being ALTs? 40-something years old and singing Genki English’s “Hello, How Are You?” ? Yet another unsatisfying day of
    watching the Japanese English teacher perform the patented grammar translation
    method before it’s your turn to read out loud about Yuki and Takeshi going to
    the supermarket? Or perhaps some adult conversation where Miki can tell you
    about how she likes to “go to shopping”? Kill me now. Want to be regarded as a professional – and paid like one? Get certified. ALTing is for 20 and 30-somethings who want to chase skirt and “experience Japan.” It sure ain’t a career.

    • Jenna

      Sadly – I can’t speak for Japan but I can speak generally – even if you get certified and do what you need to do to be regarded as a professional – you STILL often don’t get paid like one.

    • Starbucks

      Agreed. I would say ALTing is for just 20 somethings though. After age 30 it is pathetic.

      • jcbinok

        No. ALT is a job, and is neither sad nor pathetic. Enlighten me, what is your age and wonderful, non-pathetic career?

    • incumbent

      “the patented Grammar Translation method” you mentioned is the heart of the problem. Students in Japan’s Middle, Junior HIgh, and Senior High Schools do not study English. What they do study might be termed, “How the Japanese language appropriates things from the English language.” The National Pedagogy has been designed by extremely conservative nativist xenophobes obsessed with the fear that the Japanese language might be lost, and want to ensure that for the students, the English language is never found. There is no need for qualified English teachers, and so the whole discussion here about qualifications is moot. A human tape recorder is all that’s required. Have a pulse? You’re qualified!

      For many, this arrangement suits. They’re here to learn Japanese, pay off a student debt after having graduated uni with no viable employment prospects, or coast. And there are some who rail against the darkness, attempting to teach outside the mandated pedagogy, actual grammar, extensive reading and narrative immersion. Those who try know its an uphill battle, and the system which forces every Japanese to learn only English as a Dead Language (EDL) is the common enemy, not the qualifications of any instructor.

      What kills me, though, are the “professionals” — those who opt into the Hear Little English, See Less English, Speak No English translation method — who claim that they’re actually “teaching” English, and belittle others for not being as “professional” as they are. Shame on them. Collecting a paycheck for a bogus job may be a necessity for some, but there is no excuse for pretending that what you are doing here to support the National Pedagogy is worthwhile, and that there is some academic credential which somehow either obliges you or should be required for you to participate in such a charade.

  • Paul Lorenz Esquire

    I really think this is typical of the situation in most enterprises at management level in Japan. For things to change there has to be a catastrophic breakdown where the system stops working at all.
    It’s the only way that people with any authority will step in and make changes……though to be honest that’s not always a given. Often the responsible person stands up at a meeting, says sorry, bows, then takes a golden parachute. Then it’s business as usual.
    The argument over how poor conditions are vs these foreigners don’t know how good they’ve got it is one that can go on ad nauseum.
    Basically, sooner or later the constant supply of wide eyed enthusiastic foreigners will dwindle, robbing Eikaiwas of their cheap and marketable resource.
    It happened to Nova and Geos.

  • illinois dreamer

    Interac is probably by far the biggest employer of English teachers, and “gaikokujin” in general, in all of Japan in the post-Nova bankruptcy era.

    Last year Interac was sold to a Link Motivation Group. The sale price was close to US$500 million!

    The man who owns pretty much most of Link Motivation, and consequently Interac, is Mr Yoshihisa Ozasa. He is the chairman. He is very wealthy and splashes truckloads of cash around, just not to his by far largest group of employees – Interac ALTs.

    If all the virtues he espouses to his employees, in the media, in books etc are anything to go by, he would love to receive piles of correspondence outlining the issues in this article and more. He is at risk of wasting nearly half a billion dollars of investor money and is probably in need of some enlightenment as to the bag of goods he purchased.

    I found out that his email address is probably ozasa.yoshihisa@lmi.ne.jp as their email addresses are family.first format in Link Motivation Group. Write him in English or Japanese. Telling people like him directly and in volume is the only way to cause change.

    Make sure you tell him clearly any stories that support this article and highlight any questionable practices of the scumbags at Interac. Name names if you need to.

    • Pink Floyd

      scumbags indeed, there used to be a website called ” the truth about interac” years ago, it got taken down, someone needs to redo it again.

    • Pink Floyd

      scumbags indeed, there used to be a website called ” the truth about interac” years ago, it got taken down, someone needs to redo it again.

    • morio_mike

      Start loading the messages and evidence towards that chairmans email address!

  • sasquatch

    what about that first class gaijin stuffer at interac kevin salthouse? his face is most unwelcome in my branch apparently. he is like a cross between kim jung il and your grandfather. runs a self-serving dictatorship which has traces all over the troubles this article exposes and more, but has the exterior of some warm gentleman who is not very bright. he is not very smart actually. these are the guys that need to be named and deposed. and clamped firmly to the nipples of these desperate little men are amiable litters of loyal piglets monitoring teachers, investigating, spying to find any people who threaten the regime. modern day kgb. any piglet who teeths the veritable nipple is bacon by the next morning.

    • Pink Floyd

      Is that Salthouse still around? , my god i remember him when i was there 10yrs ago and he was a creepy guy back then, full of false promises and general bs, reminded me of Tony Blair, interac are a disgraceful company, they gave out fake contracts to teachers to take to immigration for visa renewals also. I wonder if the japanese immigration dept worked out what was happening , seems not.

      Funny old outfit interac, bunch of Mormons running the show there.

      • morio_mike

        Oh goodness is Shithouse still there? That man is like a cockroach. Not even nuclear can clear him out. Back when I was an LC he was so far up the crevices of the naive Japanese it was sickening. Where others boiled and moved on principle Shithouse just bends over and takes it any which way he needs to maintain his position. He knows how to pull the strings to maintain his survival and the Japanese are oblivious to the reality. Interacs president was (at least if it is still Matsumoto) so dim he probably doesn’t know what season it is, let alone what terror his chief gaijin is in charge of. If I remember Shithoise is a UK trained lawyer and is professional and slipping and sliding to avoid anything sticking. Probably be a great lawyer to hire if you are in a precarious situation. But alas a lawyer he should have remained so you could cut the payment off before he got carried away.

      • Pink Floyd

        As the old saying goes ” it’s hard to kill a bad thing” seems like saltface has hung on all these years, i bet he still wrings his hands while talking and spouting lies and BS, really reminds me of Tony Blair that war criminal with a nice smile .. haha

      • InteracFanboy

        Salthouse is a legend and a hero. How dare you besmirch his good name you impundent little worm!

    • Pink Floyd

      Is that Salthouse still around? , my god i remember him when i was there 10yrs ago and he was a creepy guy back then, full of false promises and general bs, reminded me of Tony Blair, interac are a disgraceful company, they gave out fake contracts to teachers to take to immigration for visa renewals also. I wonder if the japanese immigration dept worked out what was happening , seems not.

      Funny old outfit interac, bunch of Mormons running the show there.

  • Alchemist’s Apprentice

    Goodwill is an accounting term not a rhetoric device. When you have an endless pipeline for English teachers, what incentive is there to keep someone for more than five years? Even if you force these people onto permanent staff, the employers will continue to find ways to reduce the staff count and retain contract workers.
    The long term solution should be the screen out candidates with the help of the government. There needs to be some kind of sanctioned professional association that certifies ALT. They need to have all new ALT sit for an online exam that is tailored after TESOL curriculum and the government should at least force these visa holders to pass at the very minimum JLPT 5 which needs to be administered once a month. This alone will screen out probably 70 to 80% of the prospective ALT and will make those who are qualified more appealing.

    • skillet

      Cool name dude-Alechimist appretnice

    • jcbinok

      ALT Japanese proficiency is great, but required? I find that too much translation during classes (especially by the homeroom teacher) is one of the main hindrances to kids’ learning.

  • Alto200

    Been working as an ALT since the middle of last year. I do enjoy living and working here. I graduated over a year ago with a major in the study of East Asia. It was important for me to gain experience in the workplace and for more importantly for me, experience working in the region I studied and liked. I didn’t (at the time) have the resources for a CELTA nor a Masters degree (Last year I did gain a TESOL certificate with online work and an on site workshop) So I chose to work (initially and for the moment) to work as an ALT, whilst working on my Japanese and learning more about the country, so that in the future I will have more options open to me as a result.

    Since moving to live and work here, I can say I am enjoying the experience here. Not everything is perfect no. All of these employment-related issues absolutely are serious and SHOULD be taken into consideration for several of the reasons people have given now and in the past.

    As for my experiences working at my schools, with the teachers, the students, and correspondence with my company? All of it thus far has been good. I see it positive overall and have had with the company, no significant issues. If I had something to complain about, I guess it would be that the schools do prepare the lesson materials and teachers leading the classes, which does leave me wanting to be challenged and have more to do. But otherwise? I like working with the teachers, the students and have had good experiences corresponding with my company. And as for the cost of living? Comfortable right now.

    If people think I am stupid, am foolish for choosing to work in this industry and then I am so sorry for not having the same attitude as everyone else and for appearing naive, which I am certainly not.

    Doesn’t anybody here have ANY positive experiences of working as an ALT? Or is everybody here just jaded and is it really all bad like everyone says it is?

    • centurytower

      I think it’s a bit unkind of anyone to call you ‘stupid’ for working in this industry. The implication is that they’re ‘smarter’ or ‘better’. Not really a grown up debate when they go off like that is it?

    • NattG0

      In general, I’ve also had a positive experience. I’ve been working for about 3 years now but I’ve started to see the cracks in my 2nd year. It isn’t the schools, teachers or students. I’ve been fortunate enough to have wonderful experiences with them (truth be told I’ve learned a lot from them!). It really is, for me anyway, the company’s method of doing certain things. The major thing is the lack, or any thereof, of incentive or possibility of helping teachers become more qualified and reward for doing so. I get it. We aren’t official teachers. But wouldn’t it be nice that if we did get certain certifications we would get a pay raise? Some companies offer that just by passing levels of the JLPT!

      But we are disposable to them. That’s what hurts. It such a shame that a company doesn’t really care about the value of their employees. Those that stay longer get better but the company doesn’t give them any chance to level up further with salary. It would be nice to know that if I work hard enough, if I do my best to get whatever certification, that my salary will go up. That maybe I’ll get more responsibilities and learn more. But that isn’t the case… Therefore the quality of teachers goes down little by little each year because instead of more seasoned teachers, you get a mixed bag of new hires. Thus the quality of teaching is inconsistent. The people who suffer from it the most are the students…

      • ippatsuya

        Interac used to do the JLPT pay rise thing. Then they stopped it. They offered a location bonus. Stopped that too. They lowered salaries. Cancelled bonuses. Increased unpaid vacation. Then they wonder why good people leave and retards with nothing else going for them stay forever.

      • Toyama Tim

        The contracts next March will see working conditions and salary decrease even further. Interact teachers must start writing letters in Japanese (with the help of a Japanese friend or family member if need be) to the BOEs that they work at, describing that Interac is conning the system by splitting into 6 companies to avoid paying benefits.

      • InteracFanboy

        Interac doesn’t wonder anything sonny boy. We know full well what we are doing. We couldn’t care less if people quit or not. There will always be replacements. HAHAHAHA!

      • skillet

        As an older dude, I will say something. Japan is for the young gaijin. There are exceptions. But learn Japanese, find a pretty girl, travel, have fun.

        Don’t forget while you are there to work on some other qualifications. Like an online degree.

        Keep moving, as for most, it comes to an end.

        Japan loves young pretty and handsome gaijin. But as an older dude near retirement, I want to go back with a retirement check and freelance. Get some land out in the country and garden.

        Be my own man. It is that 2nd Japanese Dream that keeps me going.

  • Laura

    This problem isn’t just limited to ALTs, as many universities also treat their foreign teachers as disposable foreigners on display rather than professionals.

    • centurytower

      Which is why the argument that people should just upskill, just get a masters and become more ‘professional’ is a copout. Even if they do, they’ll run into same hurdles.It’s possible to upskill and be professional within the commercial teaching business too, if they would only allow it to happen and pay accordingly.

  • WildTurkey

    I work as a direct hire ALT. We get no bonus, but there are pay rises (once every 2 years). I’m out the door before 4pm, No limits, I could work here until I’m 60 if i wanted to. It’s hourly paid, but when the average is 320000 a month, I’m not complaining. I don’t work much in summer and Christmas, so I just budget.

    The city enrolls us in Shakai hoken, Nenkin, and even takes our residence tax and deducts it equally over 12 months.

    I’ve had bad deals in the past, and I’ve been screwed over, but you just need to keep looking.

    I think I got a good deal,

    • Alto200

      Speaking about the actual job itself: How do you find the work with the students and teachers?

      • WildTurkey

        Everyone is different,
        There are some students that are difficult to deal with – I just ignore them as it’s not my job to discipline them. And of course there are those moronic teachers that just want you to be the human tape recorder. It did take a while to get them to trust me in the classroom. So I just make the lessons fun, comunnicative and simple, while at the same time focusing on the grammar point.

      • Alto200

        Thanks. I just started working as an ALT (not direct hire) some months ago and as I stated in my post here, I do like it, even if I am the HTR sometimes.

      • WildTurkey

        Good to hear.
        I know people who complain about bein the head teacher, saying that they don’t get paid enough to do that, it’s not in my job description, blah, blah, blah

        All I can is is, even if you are the one leading the class, or being the tape recorder, if you’re happy, then that’s all that matters

        Happy teaching

      • WildTurkey

        Good to hear.
        I know people who complain about bein the head teacher, saying that they don’t get paid enough to do that, it’s not in my job description, blah, blah, blah

        All I can is is, even if you are the one leading the class, or being the tape recorder, if you’re happy, then that’s all that matters

        Happy teaching

      • Alto200

        Thanks. I just started working as an ALT (not direct hire) some months ago and as I stated in my post here, I do like it, even if I am the HTR sometimes.

    • centurytower

      This is true but those jobs are few and precious and no matter how much they look, some people just won;t get them. There aren’t enough of those even for all the people who are properly qualified as most ALT jobs have been farmed out to dispatchers. ‘Keep looking’ might just lead people back overseas, no matter how much they wanted a life in Japan.

      • WildTurkey

        You’re right. When I start rereading all of these horror stories about dispatch, and remembering what I went through to get here, I realize how lucky I am to have what I have.

        All I was trying to say was that there is a way to really enjoy your life as an ALT here in Japan. it’s not all dispatch.

        So if anyone wants to know where the direct hire jobs are and what the conditions are like, just send me a message.

    • skillet

      Glad to hear those are still out there.

  • Todd Strickland

    People complaining about how bad eikaiwa teachers have it always makes me laugh.

    There are various sources with slightly different data, but the mean annual salary (the statistical average) in Japan is roughly 4 million yen. That means a full-time eikaiwa teacher making 3 million yen a year isn’t really doing so bad, considering it really is a service sector job.

    Then when you consider that the median annual salary (the point where half of all salaries are above/below) in Japan is just slightly over 2 million yen, you realize that the average full-time eikaiwa teacher is making SIGNIFICANTLY MORE than MOST JAPANESE WORKERS!

    Look, I’m not saying there aren’t some bad companies, and that joining a union and striking for better conditions aren’t good ideas; I totally support workers fighting for their rights.

    But most of the people complaining here just somehow feel that they are owed more, for some reason, without any real knowledge of what the average Japanese worker’s situation is. Most eikaiwa teachers have it pretty good, for the level of training/expertise they actually have.

    • centurytower

      It’s not that they’re starving it’s that there’s no future in the job. No progression or reward for such and therefore no improvement in the stated goal – language. The industry is doing that to itself.

      • jcbinok

        Yes. Plus, correct me if I’m wrong, foreign people can’t own a business in Japan. So, even if we opened an awesome eikaiwa, it would actually be owned by a spouse or friend, no? Always at arm’s length.

      • Todd Strickland

        If you can work legally in Japan then you can own your own business, so long as that business is within the field specified by your visa.

        I have permanent residency, and I own my own business. I owned my first business in Japan on a spousal visa.

        But I know people in Japan who self-sponsored their visas specifically to open a business. I also know people who started their own business while on a specialties in the humanities visa, and then parlayed that into self-sponsorship when they had to renew.

        So your information on this point is not correct.

    • jcbinok

      average full-time eikaiwa teacher is making SIGNIFICANTLY MORE than MOST JAPANESE WORKERS!

      False comparison.
      (1) You’re comparing college-educated foreign workers to “all Japanese workers.” What would the numbers say if you looked at only college-educated Japanese workers?
      (2) Full-time Japanese workers are getting shakai-hoken (half of their health insurance and pension) paid by their company. Most ALT’s are not.
      (3) Japanese people don’t have to maintian a visa or pay thousands of dollars to visit their families back home.

      • Todd Strickland

        1. Not all foreign eikaiwa teachers these days are college-educated. I know because I interview people for teaching positions and get a very wide range of interviewees. You’re confusing the requirements for getting a ‘specialist in humanities’ visa with ‘requirements’ to teach at an eikaiwa; no such requirement exists, not by any government agency, at least. Most eikaiwas don’t require specifically the ‘specialist in humanities’ visa, just some sort of valid working visa, of which there are many kinds. I have known many teachers, some very good ones, who never graduated from a university.

        Furthermore, the number of ‘college-educated’ people in Japan is quite high, relatively. So even if your statement that eikaiwa teachers are necessarily ‘college-educated’ was true–which it isn’t–the numbers wouldn’t be skewed as much as you suspect.

        2. You’re overgeneralizing. Japanese workers, especially those working at ‘black companies,’ face this same problem. And plenty of eikawa teachers ARE getting fair and legal treatment regarding health insurance and pensions. My first job in Japan was with AEON and they signed me up for the government health insurance plan automatically and asked me if I wanted to sign up for the pension. An official at city hall told me I didn’t have to, so I declined that part.

        3. This argument has nothing to do with the inequality of pay for eikaiwa teachers. If you choose to live in a foriegn country, well, I’m sorry to tell you that you will have to pay to maintain your visa (which is really a trivial cost, anyway) and to travel home to visit relatives, if you are so inclined.

  • Chattinginjapan

    It’d be nice if more comments were actually about the article and not a bunch of discussions about the value of the eikaiwa industry.
    The author points out the successes the union has had, but does little to point out how their piecemeal approach has also been a mixed blessing at best.
    The 29.5 hour contract is an unfortunate result of the union’s successes. By managing to get companies to put people on Shakai Hoken, they essentially pushed companies to find a different way to continue to screw over a lot of foreigners who aren’t as well versed in every aspect of Japan’s employment laws. The 29.5 hour contracts allow companies to get free work out of their employees and it made it harder to qualify for the pathetic 125% overtime rates. In exchange, for that loss, a small handful of individuals got on Shakai Hoken (some against their wishes). And of course, wage stagnation and decreases became the norm.

    Another fact that this article fails to address is the back payments. This is something that needs to be discussed, especially for those who’ve been on the 29.5 hour contracts for some time and it is one that is so conveniently forgotten in discussions. In fact, I still run across a bunch of people who’ve been completely caught off guard when they get that hefty bill from the government (both for the health insurance and the pension scheme). The companies should have to pay at least 50% of the back payments or the government should waive this payment.

    I support the union’s ambitions, but it seems, in a lot of cases, that their narrow, but persistent focus on making sure everyone is on Shakai Hoken has and will come at a price for a large number of individuals they claim they are helping. Many employees would have been and will be better served if the union forced the government to also acknowledge its failure to ensure that the rules are followed. The union did not bring this upon the rest of us, but their methods and successes have (unknowingly, I suspect) played a part in it. The current changes in 2016 are merely just another way for the government to fill its coffers and the union is claiming this is the beginning of a bright new era. This may be so, providing the companies are still around to employ people and you are new to the country after the changes take place. For the rest of us who’ve been here a while… you ever hear the story about the scorpion and the frog?

    • Toyama Tim

      “Another fact that this article fails to address is the back payments. This is something that needs to be discussed, especially for those who’ve been on the 29.5 hour contracts for some time and it is one that is so conveniently forgotten in discussions. In fact, I still run across a bunch of people who’ve been completely caught off guard when they get that hefty bill from the government (both for the health insurance and the pension scheme).” Yes. This is going to eventually catch up with every ALT who hasn’t been paying into the health insurance and the pension scheme. More likely sooner than later.

  • Chattinginjapan

    It’d be nice if more comments were actually about the article and not a bunch of discussions about the value of the eikaiwa industry.
    The author points out the successes the union has had, but does little to point out how their piecemeal approach has also been a mixed blessing at best.
    The 29.5 hour contract is an unfortunate result of the union’s successes. By managing to get companies to put people on Shakai Hoken, they essentially pushed companies to find a different way to continue to screw over a lot of foreigners who aren’t as well versed in every aspect of Japan’s employment laws. The 29.5 hour contracts allow companies to get free work out of their employees and it made it harder to qualify for the pathetic 125% overtime rates. In exchange, for that loss, a small handful of individuals got on Shakai Hoken (some against their wishes). And of course, wage stagnation and decreases became the norm.

    Another fact that this article fails to address is the back payments. This is something that needs to be discussed, especially for those who’ve been on the 29.5 hour contracts for some time and it is one that is so conveniently forgotten in discussions. In fact, I still run across a bunch of people who’ve been completely caught off guard when they get that hefty bill from the government (both for the health insurance and the pension scheme). The companies should have to pay at least 50% of the back payments or the government should waive this payment.

    I support the union’s ambitions, but it seems, in a lot of cases, that their narrow, but persistent focus on making sure everyone is on Shakai Hoken has and will come at a price for a large number of individuals they claim they are helping. Many employees would have been and will be better served if the union forced the government to also acknowledge its failure to ensure that the rules are followed. The union did not bring this upon the rest of us, but their methods and successes have (unknowingly, I suspect) played a part in it. The current changes in 2016 are merely just another way for the government to fill its coffers and the union is claiming this is the beginning of a bright new era. This may be so, providing the companies are still around to employ people and you are new to the country after the changes take place. For the rest of us who’ve been here a while… you ever hear the story about the scorpion and the frog?

  • The Ripper

    I worked for Interac 10 years ago. My first contract finished at the end of February, with nothing for March. The following contract was shortened to 10 months and finished at the end of the following January. They hired a bunch of non-native instructors on Y200,000 per month with no transportation costs for them. Needless to say, they deservedly lost that particular contract.

    According to the Obvious Interac Head Office shill below, things have improved immeasurably since then, in stark contrast to the rest of the eikaiwa and ALT industry, which has seen pay and conditions decline across the board. Well done.

    • ippatsuya

      Everyone else puts nails in their boards, but the boards we beat you with have NO NAILS AT ALL! Why aren’t you more grateful??

    • Toyama Tim

      Things have been declining since Interac was bought out by a Japanese company about 3 years ago. This article describes a further decline that is no doubt on its way come the new contracts in April.

  • COYP

    Unskilled workers get low pay and few benefits shocker!

    • centurytower

      And the industry gets what’s coming to it for making it that way and keeping it so. So does the state of Japan’s level of English.

      • InteracFanboy

        Yes, but Interac continues to make oodles of money!

    • Fuel

      unskilled job requires degree at four year college. what have we come to…

  • centurytower

    It seems to me there are two camps: those who are fed up with working conditions in the industry and those who think they ‘deserve’ to be there.

    My two cents: some ALTs ‘have it good’, but that depends on teh deal that Interac has cut with the local BOE. Some get salary and pension, others get prorated holidays and no benefits. You don’t get to choose where you land up. In most cases, dispatchers offer to service as cheaply as possible and passes those costs on to the teachers.

    On the argument that ‘you should do better’ that’s true and also a poor excuse. Eikaiwa and ALT teachers generate profits for their employers and expanding organizations like Interac and Gaba or Nova are still driving pay down? What’s the excuse? That it’s an ‘entry level’ job? For graduates? Does not compute. They should recognize as the article says, on whose backs they’re profiting. They also can’t expect to maintain quality when they don’t reciprocate. teachers will leave, or at least not try so hard. I’ve seen more and more new teachers arrive with a ‘don’t care’ attitude, because they don’t expect to get anywhere.

    As for doing better, I would argue it’s harder and harder to save and study for that masters degree when you’re working more for less and salaries or wages are just enough to get by. What are people going to do then? Line up with all the other candidates for revolving door college jobs that, while they pay better, are experiencing their own drop in pay, benefits and long-term stability. Look at what Waseda tried to pull: If the teaching industry wants to improve then it has to show teachers they have an incentive to improve too.

    Till then what should eikaiwa and ALTs do? try to be better yes, but also try to make their employers do better. It’s no secret that many if not most employers are breaking the law, and no teachers ‘deserve’ that.

    • CLJF

      Exactly. Teachers can only do so much, such as through additional training, to improve their employment prospects, a lot is out of their hands. Employers and government regulations also have a big impact on the whole industry.

    • blondein_tokyo

      You’re right – no teacher deserves to get ripped off, and when an employer treats an employee as though they are unimportant and replaceable, it absolutely destroys any motivation they may have had. I’ve seen good teachers with great attitudes get worn down by poor treatment by their company until they no longer care at all, and are only doing the bare minimum and collecting their paycheck.

      I don’t see how teachers have the power to make their employers be better though. You really can’t fight the system without being branded a troublemaker and getting fired. And good luck trying to fight it in court – they break the law with impunity because they know quite well how expensive and difficult it is to win a lawsuit. And as the majority of the teachers will teach a couple of years and go home, or else move on to better jobs, there’s no one who is willing to challenge them.
      No, the industry won’t change until the DOE starts requiring ELS qualifications to get visas for teaching jobs. Right now teaching skills aren’t valuable because literally -anyone- can do it. Requiring a TESOL BA/MA is a good first step, as that would limit the number of qualified candidates, which would force up wages and put a lot of these “black” companies out of business.

      • skillet

        When I was in Japan, there were more public institutions hiring directly. I remember the tail end of the glory years. Early 90’s.

        A dude given 400ooo yen per month and only required to work five hours. He used his job time to make more money outside, drink beer, talk to pretty girls and learn Japanese.

        I came in the transifion. Jobs were a dime a dozen-I got one in 3 days-and every eikawa wanted to hire me. Condidtions were fun. There were lots of slobs who got fired but did not care. Was easy to find a new job the same day. My favorite story was the guy who dressed as a sheik for the interview and put his resume on a plastic cube as a joke. Still got job offers.

        Week-end evenings were for partying and laughing and enjoying the abundance of Japan while our buddies at home struggled in the 90-91 recession.

        THe university jobs and elite high school jobs were already drying up, but there were so many decent positions to be had. I was envious of those who arrived in the 80’s who got university professorships with no qualifications.

        So I went on and got my MA in TESOL thinking I would get on the gravy train too. But by the time I had my MA, it was more competitive. ESL was, however, a new field here in the USA. So I found that with ESL credentials-surprise surprise-more opportunities back home in public schools. Little competition here. (I had gotten the job to avoid going back home, but it ended up being the only way I was able to find a job back home after getting an ok job. I spent my entire 8 years in Japan getting qualifications for the “big position” only to find that the level of competition was increasing at about the same rate I was getting more degrees. MA and USA teaching certificate, Japanese language skills test etc..

        But I still dream of going back after I retire. Not far away !!!. But I think the thing to do is get my own students.

        It is sad to see so may positions are now subcontract model.

  • Toyama Tim

    The conditions at Interac have been declining for some time now. It used to be much less strict with working hours and much less strict with Interac teachers holding part time jobs after school. These days, most teachers have to work until 4:30pm and usually can’t do any work besides Interac. Overall, the check at the end of the month has gotten smaller and smaller each year. Teachers used to get gas money if they drove, now that’s gone. They also used to get a car allowance and now that is disappearing now too. What used to amount to close to 230,000yen a month on a full month’s payment, now is around 200,000. And, that doesn’t take into account the short months where ALTs only get 60% of their salary. Direct hire is the way to go and more foreign teachers need to start going to their local BOEs and proposing their own services.

    • Toyama Tim

      Interact teachers must start writing letters in Japanese (with the help of a Japanese friend or family member if need be) to the BOEs that they work at, describing that Interac is conning the system by splitting into 6 companies to avoid paying benefits. If this doesn’t happen Interac employees should expect to be in big trouble come October.

      • InteracFanboy

        Try as you might. You cannot stop Interac! HAHAHAHA!

    • InteracFanboy

      The conditions at Interac have NOT been declining. Your mom, on the other hand, has indeed been declining when it comes to how she performs in the sack.

    • jcbinok

      Interac…Teachers used to get gas money if they drove, now that’s gone.

      Not true.

  • Starbucks

    I was an ALT for two years and I managed to snag a job at a private JHS/SHS. The gig I have now is way better as it pays much better (315,000 yen a month) and I get so much paid time off.(Six weeks in summer for example) I, a 25 year old, beat out many people who were more “qualified” and had 10+ years of experience. Why? Because I am younger and more attractive. Simple as that.

    The older you get, the harder it is to be a teacher here. I plan to do 2 more years in Japan before I head back to my home country to start my career. There is no reason to spend more than 5 years as a teacher here. No hope for advancement.

    • Blair

      Not true. You can get your teacher’s license from a Japanese university and become a full time Japanese teacher with a handsome salary (more than twice as much as what you’re making) and two huge bonuses roughly 1/4 of your salary twice per annum. I have two friends who have done just that. One became a Japanese citizen the other is a permanent resident. It takes native speaker level Japanese, but that’s as it should be. We’re talking about being a full time teacher in a Japanese high school or junior high school.

  • skillet

    Wow, it is much worse than the 90’s when I was there. I wonder if the answer isn’t to give your own classes and find your own students.

    Of course, that is only if you are married to a Japanese and do not have visa issues.

  • Anne

    I used to work for a company called JoyTalk. They were worse than Interac, so in my perspective, Interac was the better deal. I was sent to 4 elementary schools, given a dinky Kei car with no airbags, was required to pay my car rental fee and was given a 5000 yen allowance for gas. When it came time to get a license (since my AAA international license expired) I had to pay the fees out of my own pocket, even though the car was required to get to work. Being American, I was required to drive the course to pass the test and had to take the test five times. Each time I paid 5000 yen to take it. (They’re very racist there too. The Filipinos told me it was about their 15th time taking it, while a Japanese-Brazilian passed it the first time. A fellow American co-worker was told, “You drove perfectly well, but Americans are aggressive drivers, so you’ll have to take it one more time.” Many Americans average to about 5 times.)

    My company didn’t help me pay for my national health insurance, and there was no talk about pension either. After tax, I have about 180,000 yen per month. With a 50,000 yen rent and other bills on top of that i was left with about 80,000 at the end of it all.

    It wasn’t until I quit and moved to Tokyo to work at a privately owned kindergarten that I was finally able to make an earning. (Though that place has problems of its own). I can safely say that the fairest company that I’ve ever worked for in Japan is Kinder Kids. They’re not perfect, but out of all of the companies I’ve experienced, they treat their employees the best.

  • leconfidant

    INSIDE WORD FROM THOSE WITH CONTACTS IN RECRUITMENT,
    is that all the major agencies have met together
    in anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics
    to agree on costs, i.e, the average English teacher salary.

    I think they realise that the nature of future demand doesn’t need a few really good teachers teaching high quality English lessons.

    No. What the government need and what future customer demand will require
    is a lot of amateur teachers to teach beginner English
    to a nation who only want to learn in lieu of the Olympics,
    and not long after that.

    Most students don’t need to learn much more than “Welcome to Japan”,
    “The stadium is over there”, “You’re welcome”, etc…

    So the government will invite more English speaking foreigners into Japan.
    This will flood the market with potential teachers,
    increase competition for jobs,
    and push down salaries and work conditions even further.

    Capable students who are prepared to pay for a decent lesson will be met by an army of amateurs and be disappointed at the service.

    Experienced English teachers will be lucky to bump into them in the scrum.
    Low price, low cost, low quality. And don’t forget to look really, really happy to meet them, because hours will be low too. You’ll be getting 1,500円 tops for teaching bottom level students how to pronounce ‘Hello’.

    The target salary the government will require for visa renewal will be further reduced from 20万円/month to 15万円, an average salary reduction of 25%.
    This will be the norm for all English teachers by 2020.

    After that, they don’t need most of them around,
    so I presume the target salary will rise again
    and they will get rid of the extra ones they brought in
    by reducing entry quotas and raising the target salary up again.

    So I’m guessing we’re looking at five years of shared accommodation,
    and the lowest wages it’s possible to live on.

    I’m considering China frankly.

  • leconfidant

    INSIDE WORD FROM THOSE WITH CONTACTS IN RECRUITMENT,
    is that all the major agencies have met together
    in anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics
    to agree on costs, i.e, the average English teacher salary.

    I think they realise that the nature of future demand doesn’t need a few really good teachers teaching high quality English lessons.

    No. What the government need and what future customer demand will require
    is a lot of amateur teachers to teach beginner English
    to a nation who only want to learn in lieu of the Olympics,
    and not long after that.

    Most students don’t need to learn much more than “Welcome to Japan”,
    “The stadium is over there”, “You’re welcome”, etc…

    So the government will invite more English speaking foreigners into Japan.
    This will flood the market with potential teachers,
    increase competition for jobs,
    and push down salaries and work conditions even further.

    Capable students who are prepared to pay for a decent lesson will be met by an army of amateurs and be disappointed at the service.

    Experienced English teachers will be lucky to bump into them in the scrum.
    Low price, low cost, low quality. And don’t forget to look really, really happy to meet them, because hours will be low too. You’ll be getting 1,500円 tops for teaching bottom level students how to pronounce ‘Hello’.

    The target salary the government will require for visa renewal will be further reduced from 20万円/month to 15万円, an average salary reduction of 25%.
    This will be the norm for all English teachers by 2020.

    After that, they don’t need most of them around,
    so I presume the target salary will rise again
    and they will get rid of the extra ones they brought in
    by reducing entry quotas and raising the target salary up again.

    So I’m guessing we’re looking at five years of shared accommodation,
    and the lowest wages it’s possible to live on.

    I’m considering China frankly.

  • MrKinoshita

    Perhaps it is not fair, but if you want a long term job in Japan, especially one to support a family on, a big eikaiwa chain just isn’t the place. There may be a few exceptions, but for the most part it is a transitional job, not a career. I think this is true even for the Japanese staff in many cases.

    But it can be a great place to start, and network, to find better opportunities.

  • Al_Martinez

    Teachers at these black companies would be smart to spend their time during lessons, poaching students away for private lessons–cheaper for the student, more money for the actual teacher.

    • jcbinok

      In my experience, ALT’S are contractually obligated NOT to teach their school students privately.

  • incumbent

    Thank you! A much needed overview of the deteriorating conditions for English teaching in Japan. Years ago, schools hired teachers directly. These days, most go through a company, third party contractors, like Iterac. These employment agencies take from the school about 2/3 of the money for teaching. The teacher gets the remaining third. The schools are paying fairly decent money for teachers, but the teachers themselves see only a small portion of that. It’s not a recipe for success.

    If schools want decent teachers, they should hire them directly. But most schools don’t care. For them, providing English education services is like providing custodial services. In fact, the Janitor gets treated better.

  • Fuel

    So what is recommend for current Interac ALTs in terms of action? I knew that company letter about the regional split was strange, and the never answering what the “other” deducted from our salary was.

    • Starbucks

      Enjoy your life in Japan but do not consider this a career or anything long-term. If you are over 30 and are an ALT it is kinda of sad.

      • jcbinok

        I’m an ALT over 30, and I feel no sadness or shame in my job. There are much worse things.

      • Starbucks

        You should feel shame just like someone who is working McDonalds at age 30 should feel shame.

      • Starbucks

        You should feel shame just like someone who is working McDonalds at age 30 should feel shame.

      • Starbucks

        You should feel shame just like someone who is working McDonalds at age 30 should feel shame.

      • Starbucks

        You should feel shame just like someone who is working McDonalds at age 30 should feel shame.

      • Starbucks

        You should feel shame just like someone who is working McDonalds at age 30 should feel shame.

      • Starbucks

        You should feel shame just like someone who is working McDonalds at age 30 should feel shame.

    • KenjiAd

      Learn Japanese language, get JLPT-certified (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), and look for another job either in Japan or elsewhere.

      What I see often happens to English “teachers” in Japan or China is this.

      Initially, they have a relatively good time, especially if you are a young Caucasian guy. Because of this, they become lazy and do not make any serious efforts to acquire the skills necessary to obtain a real job.

      As they approach 30, they gradually realize several things. One, finding an English-teacher job becomes harder, since you are competing with younger guys/gals. Two, you don’t have any marketable skills. Three, you can’t find any decent job back home, because, well, you have no marketable skills.

      Don’t fall into that trap, or you might end up finding yourself constantly complaining about Japan in this forum.

    • InteracFanboy

      Submit to Interac and give up all hope of doing anything else!

    • J.P. Bunny

      Keep looking for other positions. They are out there. More and more B.O.E.s are getting fed up with the dispatch companies and are going back to direct hire. Study your Japanese and apply directly to B.O.E.s, or, keep your ears open. Many good positions are found by word of mouth. Just keep looking, and if you find something better, take it. No matter what Interact may say, it has no control over your visa, and can not penalize you for quitting before the end of your contract.

  • http://starcitizen.black Graxxor Anandro Vidhelssen

    I worked for Interac for a few months back in 2003 until I realised that even after they took their wedge of cash, 10% of my remaining income was apparently ending up in Salt Lake City as a tithe to a certain… religious institution. I left at the end of that month. Their lack of respect for their staff was apparent even way back then, at the beginning of the slippery slope. They were already on their dastardly 50 week contracts, renewed after a 2 week forced break, to get around the year+ contractual obligations. (i.e. their literature said correctly that if I worked a year with Interac, I would get two month’s bonus, but when I looked at the fine print of the agreement, I saw it stated April 1st to March 15th or thereabouts.)

    I approached the headmaster of one of the schools where I was stationed and explained the situation and how much salary I received and that I was only motivated to work to that level (280,000 minus expenses and tithe). Since there was some non-compete agreement in place, I took a holiday and came back to Japan, upon where they hired me directly. My salary nearly doubled and my work duties settled down at one school and no “emergency evening cover” work.

    I never looked back.

    Roll on 13 years and Judging by the quality and apparent motivational level of many of the “teachers” I have met recently in and around Tokyo, I can only assume that the situation is much worse today.

    Many of them were clearly unhappy with their lot and seemed to be only here as a desperate attempt to find a job, any job. A long way off from the rather lucrative BIG EIKAIWA of the 90’s when I arrived.

  • InteracFanboy

    You ungrateful little curs! How DARE you attack Interac with such impunity! Who is it that allows you to live in this glorious country? Who is it that allows you to teach the leaders of the next generation? Who is it that allows you to nail hot Japanese chicks every night? Interac! I suggest you start behaving or you will be replaced.
    You think Interac cares that you whine on the internet? You are easily replaceable. There are thousands of dumb foreigners who would love a chance to live here. So quit. It matters not. You cannot stop Interac. But Interac can stop YOU.

  • John Cahill

    It’s poor management that does not pay it’s core teaching staff fairly. The essential ‘salary’ seems to still be 260,000 per month which is just as it was in 1996 when I first went to Japan. The job offers in the ‘Gaijin’ job ads are insulting starting from as low as 1000 yen an hour with an average of about 2000-2500 yen an hour. Clearly school managers and school “entrepreneurs” do not know how to run a business, develop curricula for viable class sizes or provide a quality service for clients and teachers alike. The more essential problem is obvious (to me at least), and that is that the billions of yen that goes into public school ESL is failing to produce … dreadfully .. at the level that (I think) is required! There are reasons for this, and it is not that the teachers (Japanese and foreign natives) do not work hard, but this article is not about that issue. Private school flourish at these low levels of service while or because the billions of yen distributed to public schools fails to produce. Some of my old colleagues and I actually wondered whether Japan really wants its students to learn conversational English. It was though that maybe al they want is a certain kind of English that will suffice for higher academic purposes. Whether that is actually achieved is open to question. Nevertheless, I must say that for myself the love of Japan and the privilege of service compensated for deliberate impositions of unfair earning and hours restrictions. In spite of those unfortunate attitudes I loved my work. But this does not in any way justify the pathetic way many good foreigners are treated. Not at all.

    • The Ripper

      ALT dispatch pay has gone down. Interac now tend to offer 230-250k a month, and that seems to be the best salary on offer at entry-level. Some places offer 200k, even less. That’s been the case for 10 years now.

  • Toyama Tim

    I feel sorry for new recruits coming from overseas to work for Interac. They have no idea how screwed they’re going to get soon after they get set up and start working. It really is going to be a mess this next contract season.

    • illinois dreamer

      It is important to speak out and air the facts as much as possible.

  • Starbucks

    All English teachers of all kinds should band together and march on to the Interac headquarters and forcefully depose of the head honchos there. Very similar to what the Bolsheviks did to the Tsars during the Russian Revolution.

  • Toyama Tim

    I spoke with Interac on the phone yesterday about Nenkin and if I could stop monthly payments on my own. They told me that, while they can’t tell what to do or what not to do concerning Nenkin, not paying into it would get me into trouble and the Nenkin office would fine me and seize my assets. I guess since the “My Number” system was introduce over the past couple months, more and more foreign people living in Japan who aren’t up to date with payments, or who haven’t paid at all, are in big trouble. The Nenkin office is tracking them down and making them pay what they owe, sometimes millions of yen. I am sure that after tax season the hammer will really come down on non-payers.

    • jcbinok

      I guess I’m in line to get crushed then; I’ve never paid nenkin or National Health Insurance, and I’ve been here since the Bush administration. Two different towns’ City Halls have told me face-to-face that I didn’t have to pay nenkin or National Health Insurance. One particular English language document provided to me by city officials stated that while health insurance is required, it did not specify what kind.

      • Toyama Tim

        The two city halls that told you that you that you didn’t have to pay were wrong. Misinformation and inconsistancies being perpetrated by government institutions, and the inability to track down non-payers are the reasons why National Health Insurance and Nenkin have been centralized by the Japanese National Government. To collect the windfall of back payments from people (Japanese and foreign) like yourself who are either behind or who haven’t paid at all, the “My Number” system was created. Red flags will go up as soon as your taxes are filed and all your information is in one place, as opposed to scattered among local governments.

  • Toyama Tim

    I spoke with Interac on the phone yesterday about Nenkin and if I could stop monthly payments on my own. They told me that, while they can’t tell what to do or what not to do concerning Nenkin, not paying into it would get me into trouble and the Nenkin office would fine me and seize my assets. I guess since the “My Number” system was introduce over the past couple months, more and more foreign people living in Japan who aren’t up to date with payments, or who haven’t paid at all, are in big trouble. The Nenkin office is tracking them down and making them pay what they owe, sometimes millions of yen. I am sure that after tax season the hammer will really come down on non-payers.

  • Archbishop Shaggy

    Good article, but it got a couple things wrong about Coco Juku. The union was formed for the parent company long before Coco Juku was founded. Employees can switch to another union if they wish, and a few teachers have. The union is not controlled by Nichii Gakkan, but is actually under UA Zensen. Also, all teachers with Coco Juku are enrolled in shakai-hoken. Every last one.

  • Archbishop Shaggy

    Good article, but it got a couple things wrong about Coco Juku. The union was formed for the parent company long before Coco Juku was founded. Employees can switch to another union if they wish, and a few teachers have. The union is not controlled by Nichii Gakkan, but is actually under UA Zensen. Also, all teachers with Coco Juku are enrolled in shakai-hoken. Every last one.

    • centurytower

      Good for them at least on the Shakkai Hokken, but makes one wonder why they won’t do it for Gaba, which is owned by NG as well. Why is membership compulsory at the Coco Union?

      • Archbishop Shaggy

        Gaba was bought out by Nichii Gakkan several years back. They are a wholly owned subsidiary, but not directly managed by Nichii. They already had that employment structure when bought.

        Nichii is a union shop. Such work places exist in the U.S. as well. When a company fully unionizes membership in a union becomes mandatory. Just do a google search for “union shop”. It comes from an agreement with the union.

      • jcbinok

        Good point, re: union shop. I once worked for a company back home that voted in a union during my employ. Joining was mandatory. After the buzz of the $0.35 raise wore off, everyone noticed that vacation/sick/personal time that once had a five week annual ceiling now had a two week ceiling.

      • Archbishop Shaggy

        Luckily, at Coco Juku it had had the opposite effect. They follow all labor laws, which despite being the bare minimum, is a better situation than many eikaiwa.

  • Archbishop Shaggy

    Good article, but it got a couple things wrong about Coco Juku. The union was formed for the parent company long before Coco Juku was founded. Employees can switch to another union if they wish, and a few teachers have. The union is not controlled by Nichii Gakkan, but is actually under UA Zensen. Also, all teachers with Coco Juku are enrolled in shakai-hoken. Every last one.

  • Archbishop Shaggy

    Good article, but it got a couple things wrong about Coco Juku. The union was formed for the parent company long before Coco Juku was founded. Employees can switch to another union if they wish, and a few teachers have. The union is not controlled by Nichii Gakkan, but is actually under UA Zensen. Also, all teachers with Coco Juku are enrolled in shakai-hoken. Every last one.

  • Toyama Tim

    Misinformation and inconsistancies being perpetrated by government institutions, and the inability to track down non-payers are the reasons why National Health Insurance and Nenkin have been centralized by the Japanese National Government. To collect the windfall of back payments from people (Japanese and foreign) who are either behind or who haven’t paid at all, the “My Number” system was created. Red flags will go up as soon as your taxes are filed and all your information is in one place as opposed to scattered among local governments.