National | Regional voices: Chubu

Job security eludes Japan's growing ranks of post-doctorate part-time lecturers

Chunichi Shimbun

Yosuke Amaike, 39, spends a busy week juggling work at four different schools, where he works as a part-time instructor.

He gives lectures at Gifu University, as well as a private university, a junior college and a vocational school, and his salaries are decided according to the number of classes he holds.

For the current school year, which started in April, he has six classes a week in the first half of the year and five in the latter half, and the pay is roughly ¥10,000 per class.

He doesn’t get paid during the vacations, when there are no classes, so his annual income is less than ¥2 million.

There are no allowances paid for class preparation, grading students’ essays or devising exams. In order to get a full-time job at colleges, it is necessary to achieve a high research performance through presenting papers, but he has to bear all the costs, including purchasing books and attending academic conferences.

He has no health insurance and says he finds it hard to make a living. “Sometimes I only have one meal a day or eat rice that my friend sent me,” he said. “Bento sold at convenience stores are too expensive for me to buy.”

Every fall, schools start discussing with him about contracts for the next school year. “I always get nervous around that time because I’m worried about whether I can get a job again.”

Schools don’t make an official contract with him until April, right before the new school year starts.

As a part-time lecturer, he was only able to join a labor union at Gifu University. “Part-time lecturers are in a very disadvantaged position,” he said, adding that he can’t get married because of his unstable career.

Amaike graduated from university in 2002 during the weak economy that followed the bursting of the bubble economy in the early 1990s. He started working at a company, but his health deteriorated after being forced to work 12 hours a day and he had to quit.

Since it was difficult for him to find a full-time job amid shrinking job opportunities, he decided to go back to school to study welfare policy and employment support so he could make a fresh start.

He entered Nagoya University’s graduate school in 2008 and proceeded to a doctoral course by obtaining a student loan of ¥4.5 million.

Although tenure-track positions at universities are constantly being reduced in line with the declining birthrate, people seeking such positions are increasing. This is because the number of graduate students rose sharply in the 1990s after the government focused on expanding the capacity of graduate schools to catch up with Western nations in the field of academic research.

According to education ministry statistics, the number of people who completed a doctoral course in the 2018 school year totaled 15,658, up nearly three times from 5,576 in the 1989 school year.

Along with the increase of people with a doctorate, the number of post-doctorates working as part-time lecturers rose sixfold from 15,689 in 1989 to 93,145 in 2016.

Toshihiko Maita, 43, of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, was also one such post-doctorate. He said he worked as a part-time lecturer at five private universities from 2005, but in the fall of 2016, when he turned 40, he was asked by the universities “to give up the positions for younger people.”

Having a doctorate in education, Maita has applied for a full-time position at more than 40 universities, but to no avail.

Currently working as a freelance writer, Maita said: “Part-time lecturers tend to be laid off easily because universities use them to cut back on personnel expenses.”

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on July 15.