Foreign victims in Japanese English education “ú–{Œê
Japan is a country famous for bureaucratic punctuality.
Ask any Japanese person when he or she expects to be paid,
and you will be told promptly gon the 25th of each monthh.
This is the Japanese way.
So why should this standard be any different for non-Japanese nationals
living and working in Japan?
Should any legally-residing, tax-paying foreigner, whose job is educating
the Japanese public, be exempt from this basic right?
One should certainly hope not.
However, there is reason to believe that foreigners are
being taken advantage of in this regard. Interac, one of the largest dispatch
English teaching companies for the Board of Education (BoE) in Japan,
is also one of the worst offenders; this is a company with a well-known
history of taking advantage of its teachers.
For example, Reginald Fitzhopkins, a British national who has worked in Japan
for over two years, was first employed by Interac for 1 year.
For the first 6 months he was paid gon timeh, meaning anywhere
from 4-8 weeks after his work period was completed. However,
on several occasions, his pay was further delayed by up to 3 weeks
at Interac`s discretion, which is to say he was paid 11 weeks after
his work period was finished. Eleven entire weeks.
Interac is one of the biggest and richest language companies in Japan,
and yet they expected a foreign teacher like
Reginald, with limited start up funds, to survive in the most expensive country
in the world for 11 whole weeks after he had completed his work.
As if being paid so late was not difficult enough, Reginald had little choice
but to accept a loan from the very company that was withholding his wages.
He was required to pay back this loan with interest, and at the same time
had to wait 11 weeks for his first pay-check.
Can we even pretend to believe that this is acceptable?
The answer, of course, is no. What would happen if a Japanese national
was treated this way? It is entirely unacceptable, immoral, and borderline criminal.
During this time Reginald could speak only a negligible amount of Japanese
and feared for his job if he were to voice his discontent too strongly.
Therefore, his only real choice was to accept it, feeling helpless
in a foreign land. However, he soon realised that he was not alone.
He spoke with many other teachers who worked for Interac.
Evidently, this company`s practice of late payment was not at all unusual.
Robin from the United States, and Hank from Australia also received
payment very late, but like Reginald, kept quiet, being afraid for their jobs.
Reginald has since decided to take the matter directly to the BoE.
He has recently tried applying for an English teaching position independently
in hopes of dealing directly with the government.
After all, the Japanese government has never had problems paying its
employees on time. However, he found that Interac and similar dispatch
companies had already secured a monopoly on all available positions.
It was not even possible to apply directly to the BoE. How could this be?
Interac has been widely described as a gparasiteh company.
By taking on the government`s hiring duties, Interac is able to supply
the BoE with foreign teachers.
In turn Interac pays its teachers from the government`s designated
salaries for each position, extracting a sizable fee along the way.
Unlike other English schools, and eikaiwas like NOVA, who at least
actively create new English teaching jobs though advertising etc.,
Interac merely employs the teachers they have recruited with already
existing government jobs. Interac then collects a large fee for this
so-called gconvenienceh and many foreigners even believe they are
receiving a good deal.
This is because they cannot speak Japanese well, so they depend on
such companies to recruit them.
What they fail to realise is that Interac`s policies result is lowered wages
and increased teacher dependence. Although the BoE pays \500,000
per month for each position, Interac only pays its entry-level
teachers \230,000 per month! Interac takes more than half of the
teachers` salaries as a fee!
In theory, this is not even legal, as the law requires any company
sponsoring full-time teachers for a working visa to pay its employees
at least \250,000 per month.
However, Interac makes its teachers forfeit an additional \20,000
per month (they have no choice) to cover the cost of books and classroom materials.
These materials are all non-refundable and yet they must be returned to Interac
when the teacher leaves the company.
This results in a lower monthly salary than what is required by the
government to be paid.
Still, teachers don`t complain because they feel they have no choice.
This allows Interac to get away with other such immoral activities as
paying its teachers late. If the teacher doesn`t like it, he or she cannot
go elsewhere (unless he or she wants to teach at a lower level
position like at NOVA). But the question remains: why do these dispatch
companies pay late?
We already know the government itself pays on time. Interac`s excuse is
that for a time they hired many teachers while suddenly switching from
Language Consultant recruitment to Assistant Language
Teacher recruitement, resulting in a negative cash flow for the company.
Even if this were true, it would have been very irresponsible of Interac to
have taken on more teachers than it could handle.
However, it seems more likely that Interac has been hoarding its
employees` money all along for as long as possible in order to collect
the maximum amount in bank interest.
By paying its teachers late, Interac is able to make even more money
by keeping its cash in the bank for a longer time.
This is highly exploitative and unfair to teachers who really need this
money (which they earned) to eat and pay rent etc.
Foreigners are forced to accept these humiliating, unfair and illegal
conditions, because they see no other alternative, and feel unable
to defend themselves.
If Japanese people were made more aware that this was happening
they would no doubt feel outraged, and would hopefully complain to the
BoE, and instigate changes from outside. Simply put, Interac is funded
by tax yen paid by the Japanese public.
Wouldn`t they like to know that their money is being well spent, and not
fuelling the illegal activities of a profit-driven parasite company like Interac?
It is unfortunate that the Japanese public does not yet seem to understand
the plight of English teachers in Japan.
English teachers work hard and deserve more respect.
They educate the Japanese people and in turn are taken advantage
of by Japanese parasite companies like Interac. If skilled, experienced
foreigners continue to be treated as poorly as this by companies like Interac,
Japan will soon find itself devoid of skilled English teachers, and this would
be a great pity for everyone.
It should not be so difficult to receive full payment on time.
Paying teachers on time requires only common courtesy and etiquette;
that is all. Since dishonest companies like Interac have shown where
their true interests lie (not in caring for the teachers who are the
backbone of English education), it is up to the Japanese government
to recognize what is happening and intervene.
The BoE should amend its policies to enable English teachers to find
government jobs directly.
Continuing to rely on private parasite companies like Interac would be
both irresponsible and harmful to English education in Japan for the long-term.

Francoise Coppee@(2005 March 17)
English teacher
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