National / Social Issues

Over half of junior high teachers found working risky levels of overtime

Kyodo

More than half of the nation’s junior high school teachers have worked more than 20 hours overtime per week — a level that could cause serious health problems, a government survey showed Friday.

Some 57.7 percent of junior high school teachers and 33.5 percent of elementary school teachers said their weekly labor exceeded 60 hours, including over 20 hours of overtime, the survey by the education ministry showed.

More than 80 hours of overtime a month over is considered the threshold for increased risk of karoshi, or death from overwork.

These teachers easily passed two yardsticks — the 38 hours and 45 minutes of regular working hours per week for teachers at public schools, and the maximum of 40 weekly working hours set by the Labor Standards Act.

The latest survey on teachers working hours for fiscal 2016 highlights anew the issue of Japan’s chronically long working hours.

This entrenched corporate habit was recently thrust into the public spotlight by the Christmas Day suicide of a young female employee at advertising giant Dentsu Inc. that was officially classified as related to karoshi, prompting the government to take action .

The survey found that elementary schools teachers worked an average of 57 hours and 25 minutes per week, while their junior high counterparts logged an average 63 hours and 18 minutes. Both exceeded the fiscal 2006 survey results.

The figures “confirm that the situation cannot be overlooked,” Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hirokazu Matsuno said in a news conference.

He called on a ministry advisory panel to study measures to reduce teachers’ working hours.

The ministry surveyed around 20,000 teachers selected from 400 public elementary and junior high schools and studied their working hours between October and November last year.

Education critic Naoki Ogi said the government needs to carry out labor reforms to reduce the “extraordinary” hours being worked.

“If reforms in the way teachers work, such as increasing the number of teachers, are not implemented, education . . . in the long run could be affected,” he said.

A panel headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled an action plan for broad labor reforms last month to address long hours.

The plan said overtime should be capped at 100 hours a month, even during busy seasons.

Calculating the working hours per task on a day, elementary school teachers devoted 4 hours and 25 minutes of their time to classes, 27 minutes longer than the earlier survey, while their junior high counterparts used 3 hours and 26 minutes, up by 15 minutes.

The longer hours were due in part to the increased hours for classes under the revised guidelines, the ministry said.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5