While the debate rages on as to what impact the 2020 Olympic Games and the worldwide media attention that comes with it will bring to English education in Japan, branches of the government have been slowly implementing change.
Those who have ever worked for a Japanese company or within the public sector in Japan, will have noticed the large disparity that exists between seishain, or full-time workers, and their part-time-contract worker counterparts. From no sick leave to having no health insurance support from companies, part-timers and independent contractors often get the short end of the stick.
The “Equal Pay for Equal Work” legislation, formally passed by the Japanese Parliament last year and taking effect in April, aims to remedy this. It could mean fairly big changes for many types of contracted workers in Japan, including foreigners like myself who are ALTs.
Full-time vs part-time work in Japan
Almost all ALTs in Japan, be they direct hires or employed via a dispatch company, fall into the category of contracted, temporary workers, despite the fact that they are basically working full-time, sometimes more, for years.
It’s well known that both ALT dispatch companies and eikaiwa put their teachers on part-time contracts despite the hours being more or less full time. Some shady companies that employ teachers as “independent contractors” don’t provide holidays or pension and insurance contributions. One notorious eikaiwa, even makes contractors pay the company per lesson missed when they want to take a day off.
The government sees this as a problem not just for foreigners working in education, but also for an increasing number of Japanese staff forced to do the same work as their full-time colleagues but with none of the job security, salary reviews, or perks that go with it.
So, the new Equal Pay for Equal Work law compels companies to offer part-time staff similar conditions to those of full-time workers, including the accompanying benefits.
How does this affect ALTs?
Well, the short answer is that it really depends on where you work and what kind of contract you are on.
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