Fukuoka General Union info site on how BOEs are outsourcing ALTs through dispatch companies, not through JET Programme


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Hi Blog.  Here’s an informative page from the Fukuoka General Union on how local boards of education are outsourcing ALTs through dispatch companies in place of actual JETs through the JET Programme.  Excerpt follows:


By the Fukuoka General Union
Throughout Japan Boards of Education have been moving away from the JET program in favour of outsourcing ALT jobs to dispatch companies. In Fukuoka it has come to the point that most BOEs subcontract out their work.

This page is aimed to shed some light on the current systems that operate to the detriment of ALTs – who are practically all non-Japanese (NJ).

– Why do BOEs outsource ALT teaching jobs.
– The difference between direct employ, sub-contract and dispatch contracts.
– What is illegal about a sub-contract ALT working at a public school.
– The tender bid process.
– How much money do dispatch companies make from ALTs?
– Dispatch company ALT and health insurance.
– How dispatch companies and BOEs get rid of ALTs they don’t like.
– Ministry of Education tells BOEs to directly employ ALTs – BOEs ignore directive.
– Labour Standards Office issue reprimand, BOE has head in the sand.
– How the sub-contracting system damages other teachers in the industry.
– Why the Fukuoka General Union is fighting for direct employment.
– Reference materials
– You Tube news reports on the ALT sub-contracting issue (Helps explain the situation to Japanese teachers)

Why do BOEs outsource ALT teaching jobs.
Up until a few years ago most local governments procured their Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) through the JET program. However, with local government budgets tightening, they began looking for ways to cut expenditure. The cost of keeping a JET was about 6 million yen per year, so when they were approached by dispatch companies which offered to do it for less they jumped on the bandwagon. But not only did they save money, they outsourced the management of the ALTs, getting the dispatch company to take on the troublesome chore of getting the ALT accommodation, assimilating them into Japanese society and taking care of any trouble that arises. Like a cancer the number of non-JET ALTs at public schools increased to a point where they make up the bulk of ALTs in Fukuoka (and other) Prefectures. To outsource the ALT teaching jobs, they have determined that it is a “service” (業務 gyomu)…


Rest at http://fukuoka.generalunion.org/alt/index.html

Here’s an old article from the Mainichi I had lingering in my archives on this subject, to give you an idea just how widespread the practice is.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

偽装請負:千葉・柏市小中61校で認定 外国人指導助手不在に
毎日新聞 2010年4月17日 東京朝刊, Courtesy JH







毎日新聞 2010年4月17日 東京朝刊

23 comments on “Fukuoka General Union info site on how BOEs are outsourcing ALTs through dispatch companies, not through JET Programme

  • Thanks for posting. I meant at some point to talk about the Fukuoka piece, which has been out there for months. The bottom line is that foreigners who are coming to Japan to teach English are being contracted in the same way you might lease rental furniture.

    I was very impressed with this piece when I first read it, and good to see that you are giving it some more exposure.

  • —-But not only did they save money, they outsourced the management of the ALTs, getting the dispatch company to take on the troublesome chore of getting the ALT accommodation, assimilating them into Japanese society and taking care of any trouble that arises.—

    Makes good business sense and everyone`s happy except the ALTs and what does that matter? As long as there is a fresh supply of NJs eager to teach English I don`t see this stopping. J-law appear toothless regarding this matter.

  • I worked as an ALT for one of these companies in Tochigi. My wife is Japanese, so the company didn’t even have to worry about my visa. After working in the same town for two years, the BOE asked the company for a new ALT. Both the BOE and the teachers I work with said I was doing a good job, and they were happy with me, but for some reason the BOE wanted a new teacher. I could tell many of the Japanese teachers I worked with and some of the city hall workers that I knew were shock that they would throw me away so easily. I would’ve been happy to work there longer. Can anyone explain why the BOE would want to replace a perfectly good teacher?
    I was happy with the company I worked for. I never had to bother them, and they hardly ever bothered me. We had a good relationship, until the BOE wanted to replace me. The company didn’t try to stad up for me and try to let me keep working in the same town. They fell on their knees and kissed the BOE’s feet. Anything to keep their contract. Then they offered me a job in another town. I just quit and moved to Guam.

  • The main problem I have seen with this practice is the great decline in teacher quality. I have met teachers working with the JET program and they were all professionals who cared about their students. Many of the teachers I have met who work through dispatch companies are not as serious about their lessons or about their students at best or are often just plain incompetent. I actually work for a very good dispatch company who tries to hire only serious professionals for their teaching positions, but I have seen many companies looking for anyone willing enough or foolish enough to work for the lowest possible salary. I feel that lumping all these companies together is a disservice to those organizations working to provide quality teachers to the schools. I also feel the BOEs should be attempt to insure that the ALTs they hire are of the best quality they can find and not just the cheapest.

  • I currently work for a BOE directly (though not through JET), and have worked in the past for a dispatch company. I make a bit more money and the working conditions are waaay better. As Brian in comment #3 says, the company will bend over backwards to make the BOE happy, and in the BOE there are different factions, and occasionally the superintendent makes a decision and it must be followed, which may have happened to your contract. Everyone liked you, but the head boss decides it’s time for new blood, and his orders have to be followed.

    — So just to clarify, you’re saying outsourced dispatch work is better than going through the JET Programme or BOE direct hire?

  • Oh God no! I much prefer direct hire and despised the demeaning treatment from the dispatch company I worked for. There were so many strict rules set up that technically, if the Japanese teacher wanted to change the lesson plan in the middle of class, ALTs were supposed to cease work and call the company to request further instructions – in the middle of class! It’s ludicrous and unfeasible, but it seems like such rules were set up to make it easier to drop people if something came up or the BOE requests a change.

    My comment was meant for Brian, that his situation is unsurprising. While the teachers, students and most of the BOE appreciated him, there are choke points where someone can unilaterally decide they want to change the ALT and the dispatch company will do it, no questions asked.

    Apologies if my earlier comment was confusing.

    –Thanks for clarifying.

  • I hope I am not too off topic with this, but I just wanted to comment about how this case has altered ALT working conditions.

    As a result of this case, and after the school year had started last year, a very large dispatch company told its ALTs that the teaching methods and working conditions for ALTs would be totallly changed. They would no longer do team teaching, but the JTE (Japanese teacher) must remain in the room. The JTE can teach as much of the class as (s)he wants to, though, as long as the lesson plan is communicated through the dispatch company ahead of time.

    The JTE cannot directly discuss the lesson plans with the ALT or give the ALT any directions. All requests, directions, schedules, or alterations to those, must be done through the dispatch company. The ALT could be sitting next to the JTE in the faculty room, but any communication about schedules or lesson contact has to go through the dispatch company.

    This is being done to have the ALTs considered as gyomu itaku workers instead of haken. Apparently, the schools would have to directly hire haken ALTs after three years, but are not obligated to do so for gyomu itaku workers.

    The same ALT dispatch company tells its workers that they should stay in their schools from 8AM to 4:30 or 5:00PM but claims that there are only 5.9 working hours to avoid enrolling them in shakai hoken. Two or so of the hours are “break time” but it is likely that many of the schools are not aware of this.

  • —This is being done to have the ALTs considered as gyomu itaku workers instead of haken. Apparently, the schools would have to directly hire haken ALTs after three years, but are not obligated to do so for gyomu itaku workers.—-

    Let`s face it: Many schools find it simpler to use a dispatch company than to hire a NJ direct. As long as this is the case I don`t see things changing. The current laws are easily gotten around.

    I`m always hearing about the evil dispatch companies but the fact is they only operate because school districts want their services.

    — So we’ll blame BOEs for the dispatch companies’ labor abuses? A bit facile.

  • Not really. Many NJ’s blame dp companies for their plight when they should be asking why school boards insist on using them and why the current laws are easily skirted around.

    — So those dp companies who take advantage of the situation are blameless? Sorry, disagree. I say blame them too.

  • I think both the BOEs and dispatch companies are to fault. The BOEs have ignored the central government’s directive to stop using dispatch companies. The dispatch companies are exploiting their workers by keeping them off shakai hoken and, in my opinion, underpaying them. The BOEs are also to blame for turning a blind eye to this.

  • Granted they readily exploit the situation. However they are the wrong target. Dispatch companies only operated because many BOE and schools prefer using them to hiring the NJ direct.

  • I have to agree that DP companies, while unpleasant, are not really the problem. Given the opportunity to make money, of course a bunch of opportunistic people are going to try to cash in. If I repeatedly employ some guy to build things for me, regardless of whether he can do it properly or not, is the guy ultimately responsible for the bad results?

    The real problem is that BOEs are a) ignoring the law, b) not focusing on their primary mission (providing quality education to the students in their care), and c) attempting to evade all responsibility for their foreign teachers.

    This result is common because the people who work in BOEs are not really focused on b) above, but rather on surviving the few years they have to spend there before being transferred out. The less hassles the better.

    — So in essence, the DP companies are “just following orders”.

  • Not to take any blame away from the BOEs, but I think the dispatch companies’ refusal to enroll their employees in shakai hoken is wrong no matter what the circumstances.

  • The only problem with dispatch companies is that they illegally don`t provide the appropriate benefits and they`ll pro-rate your salary. As far as free time goes, the BOE direct hire will give you very little of that. And yes Debito the BOEs are at fault in many ways because many have been ordered by the ministry to sort out the dispatch issue but countless ones have just ignored it. This is Japan. Japan = Bureaucracy.

    — Reading comprehension please. I never said that the BOEs were not at fault. I’m getting ready to draw this increasingly meandering discussion to a close.

  • I think the fact that the despatch companies and the BOEs have changed the system of teaching in the classroom is proof that they had been breaking the law since year dot.
    If the outsourced ALTs, who had been working under the old system for over 3 years took their case to the Labour Bureau I think they would have a god case for getting direct employ. But that is if anyone is prepared to go that far.

  • One thing for sure is…

    It is hard to ignore the growing evidence that we are nearing the end of the practice of hiring “foreign English teacher” as an ALT in public schools.

    The JET program is in question due mainly to budget woes, ALT dispatches for questionable employment practices, and YES even direct hire because…well, just because of the ACTUAL working conditions…

    That’s right, direct hire. It’s a case of “being careful what you wish for”. In Toyohashi, Aichi prefecture the B.O.E. changed entirely from JET about 5 years ago to dispatch. First a local eikaiwa (which was determined to still be”too expensive”), then Interact. Finally last April, with the help of the general union, direct hire was implemented for the first time to the resounding “hoozah”of the ALTs.

    Flash forward only 7 months later to today and most of those same ALTs that stuck around to be hired directly are grumbling about the “Japanese-style” working conditions, having to commit to clubs on weekends and after school, being expected to keep up similar duties (at least on the surface) as their Japanese peers, having less holiday time than before, and yes yes…even paying into the shakai hoken system! Few have said they are willing to renew their contracts next year.

    Pity the B.O.E.s and govt of Japan can’t get English Ed. right. Or will they?

    Japan teachers may get English training in U.S.
    The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The Japanese and U.S. governments are considering the establishment of a program that would send young Japanese teachers of English to the United States to improve their English ability, it has been learned.

    Prime Minister Naoto Kan plans to expand cultural, intellectual and human exchanges between the two countries, in addition to security and economic cooperation as part of the government’s efforts to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance. The government intends to reach an official agreement that includes the English-teacher plan when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Japan in the middle of next month.

    The government envisions training young English-language teachers at primary, middle and high schools in the United State for periods of one to two years.

    If 1,000 teachers were dispatched to the United States for one year at an estimated cost of 10 million yen per person, the government would require about 10 billion yen annually to fund the program.

    To aid English education in this country, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program has brought foreign young people to Japan to teach English at Japanese schools. The JET program is administered by the Foreign Ministry, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and local governments.

    However, the government’s most recent round of budget screening, ahead of the compilation of the fiscal 2011 budget, decided the JET program needs to be reviewed. In its subsequent budget request for fiscal 2011, the Foreign Ministry sought only 130 million yen, down 14 percent from the initial fiscal 2010 budget.

    To set up the new language program, the government needs to secure the financial resources, observers have said.

    (Oct. 11, 2010)

  • @12 Hey Debito

    I wouldn’t say the DP companies are ‘just following orders’, but rather that it is the BOEs responsibility to hold them to account. Given that the BOEs are awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, they are in fact encouraging the DP companies to cut costs, and by not focusing on academic results they are communicating loud and clear that the only thing they want are cheaper and more convenient English teaching ‘robots’. Is it surprising that there are companies willing to go along with that while the margins are good (and they aren’t good any longer, if you look at the contracts on that Fukuoka union page, the amount per ALT gets smaller every year).

  • Behan,

    I work for a dispatch company, and not a small one either, that enrols it’s ALT staff on shakai hoken when they request it. You can’t tar every organization with the same brush.

  • @Jon

    Thanks Jon, interesting. But is part of the problem that they don’t get paid the same amount as their Japanese colleagues?

    One of my ALT friends was a direct hire and he was expected to do similar duties as the other staff (well, not exactly, but similar hours, at least) and his pay was DECREASED every year, while his colleagues all got their pay INCREASED every year.

    Fun indeed. If that isn’t a motivation killer I don’t know what is.

  • AJ,

    There is no “requesting” when it comes to shakai hoken. You are supposed to be enrolled in it. Japanese people don’t need to request to be on it. They are automatically enrolled.

  • Behan,

    Really, it seems to me you’ve never been an ALT. Most schools and B of E don’t enforce social insurance for ALT staff, though a few I know of do.

    And many ALTs choose to not enrol of THEIR OWN FREE WILL. Remember that? The simple reality is you can get on a good all inclusive travel insurance program for around ¥5000 a month, kokumin kenko hoken for ¥12000+ a month means tested, or shakai hoken for ¥30000+ a month means tested. It’s not rocket science. For those who want to stay long term to retirement there’s SK. For those who don’t, there’s better, and cheaper options, which the government, B of Es and haken gaisha on down the line let them choose as it is now.

    I think SK is an expensive system that will likely long term not pay out, even if I needed it to, so I don’t want it. End of story.

    — No, not end of story. Everyone should follow the law. Including DP, BOE, and ALT. And ALTs can get their social insurance money back if they’re here really short term. Anyway, putting the kibosh on this thread.

  • There is no “enforcing”, “requesting”, “asking” or “choosing” etc when it comes to shakai hoken. Anyone who works for a company with five employees is supposed to be enrolled in it. If you are employed by a company you are supposed to be on shakai hoken. If you are self-employed or work for a very tiny company, you get kokumin kenko hoken.
    This is regardless of whether you like it or not.

  • I’m not arguing that this is what the law says,it says what it says. But when a segment of society, business and common folk alike, for whatever reason, willfully ignore a law, and are not punished for doing so in any meaningful way by the powers that be, it ceases to have an effect. As I understand the common law concept from my relatively basic level study of it from high school, university and history classes, lack of enforcement leaves employees and employers free to not participate in said social insurance or pension programs, and seek a better deal elsewhere, should they see fit to do so? This is all hypothetical to each individuals situation of course.

    Debito, Behan, It seems I fundamentally disagree with your relatively strict views on this issue, but I respect your belief that all should follow the law as it stands. But reality is not black and white, right and wrong.

    Yes, boards of education and dispatch companies out there are willfully ignoring their responsibilities to their employees, and overall social insurance schemes.

    But the elephant in the room is that it seems to me that this social insurance system is broken. The locals don’t expect the pensions to pay out for them yet many still pay, while many,federal lawmakers included, dont even pay in. the health insurance premiums are ridiculously expensive compared to my native land, and while the services are efficient, much cheaper, full reimbursement insurance schemes are available. The national system is thus uncompetitive vs other insurers, and likely to get more expensive as the population ages.

    The only seemingly useful social insurance program is the unemployment insurance, but Hello Work aren’t well equipped to assist foreign jobseekers even if they are proficient in Japanese, and the benefits cut off as they do in America after a set period of time, regardless if you are legitimately seeking employment or not.

    So there you have it, my two (or fifty) cents. Shakai hoken is in my mind a waste as a social insurance program, your money now disappearing into corrupt pockets or worthless pork barrel projects. That’s my opinion, and you’re entitled to disagree. But the issue is not as black and white as “it’s the law, you should pay.” the common law seems to suggest otherwise.


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