Times get tough for teachers

English teaching in Japan is not what it used to be. Conditions are changing; the work is harder to come by, wages are falling, and staff are increasingly taking their employers to court.

“It’s (the ALT industry) getting bigger and bigger, but as it gets bigger there is a race to the bottom in wages,” says [NUGW Tokyo Nambu deputy general secretary Louis] Carlet.

“In the bidding process the schools are desperate to decrease their bid and so of course they squeeze wages and take away all benefits and increase work hours.”

So the teachers, and eventually the students, are the ones that suffer. “More teachers take it because there is nothing else available. The reality is they are terrible jobs, with no job security.”


Foreign Worker Solidarity Day

Yesterday, March 22nd, three unions: NUGW Tokyo Nambu, Kanagawa City Union, and Zentoitsu Workers Union joined forces in an action-packed day of five demonstrations. The day’s actions were in response to unresolved disputes ranging from dismissals, including two dismissals for pregnancy, to union busting and threats of dismissal, to unpaid wages and passport confiscation.

The day finished up with two heated collective bargaining sessions, one in the afternoon with XXX, and another later that evening with the vehemently anti-union XXX, apparently still reeling from the combined might of three unions and a sound truck earlier in the day.

Japan’s Worsening Population Crisis

“It’s almost taboo to raise the issue of mass immigration here,” [Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau] says.

“Japan has no experience of this, only of sending people abroad. Modern Japan almost totally shuts out foreigners and the only people who debate the issue are specialists. Nobody is even researching it.”


Hard lessons in broken English

“A lot of people see the advertisements ? and think it will be like schoolroom teaching and lots of fun, but when you get here it is more like doing factory line work,” he says. “The whole teaching-English-in-Japan thing is a complete fraud and the experience can be quite bitter.”

But for anyone set on working in Japan, the Nova language school should be the last option, he says.


Japan should aggressively accept foreign workers

Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the influential Japan Business Federation, said Monday Japan should accept foreign laborers “in all business categories” to cope with a shortage of labor in the near future.

As Japan’s labor population will begin to decrease by 1 million a year after 2010, it will be difficult to overcome a resultant labor shortage…


Equality still has a long way to go

Louis Carlet, deputy general secretary of the 2,600-member National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu (to which some Japan Times employees belong), agreed. It is always those women in less stable situations who bear the brunt of negative trends in the economy, he said.

“When companies downsize, or when they shift toward fixed-term contracts, the first target, in my experience, is women,” he said. “That is because there is still a mentality that real workers are men.”


Two Colleges Drop ID Requirement For Foreign Applicants

Two colleges, one in Fukuoka Prefecture and the other in Tokyo, have stopped requiring non-Japanese applicants to submit identification certificates, following complaints that it is a discriminatory practice, school officials said Thursday.

Kyushu Dental College in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, made the decision after a South Korean resident of Japan complained to the college that the requirement was discriminatory. After consulting with the education ministry, the college decided to eliminate the requirement next day. Tokyo-based Showa University received a similar complaint last month and eliminated the requirement, it said.


March In March 2006

400 foreigners in a simultaneous demonstration seeking job security and an end to discrimination.


The Asahi Shimbun reported on the web Sunday evening and in their morning print edition. In fact, many of the Asahi’s “400 foreigners” were Japanese, who joined foreigners in what is the beginning of a civil rights movement in Japan. The Japan Times also ran an AP photo on Monday, captioned:

Demonstrators demand job security and equal job opportunities for foreigners during a march Sunday in Tokyo in which some 300 foreigners and Japanese union members took part.

Thanks to all Nambu members and participants in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka who joined the 2006 March in March. You have made all the difference. See all of you again on March 4, 2007.

Japan needs, but does not welcome, migrant help

About 1.9 million foreigners are registered in Japan. Combined with illegal entries, non-Japanese make up 1.5 percent of Japan?s population, a tiny proportion compared to immigrant populations in Europe and North America. The challenges so familiar to officials in the US, Europe and Australia are thus relatively new in Japan.

Official policy has not come to terms with the labor deficit, and without government action, employers will meet the growing demand for workers with illegal immigrants. Business voices, such as the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, have called for importing foreign labor. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and legislators must decide whether to open the gates to mass immigration or prepare for a markedly shrunken economy. Yet recent central government initiatives focus on controlling or expelling those foreigners already here. In June, to better monitor foreign residents, officials announced a plan that could require them to carry IC chip identification.


Thinking of teaching in Japan?

Most people, when they first arrive, work at a place like Nova, probably the biggest employer of native English teachers in the world. By dint of their overseas recruiting programme, NO-VAcation (as we called it when I worked there) is the first employer for many arriving in Japan. But even this has changed. Recently, after a long struggle with the local General Union, it was forced to provide its full-time teachers with health, pension and unemployment benefits.