Interac, JET and the social insurance (Part 3 in a kind of a series).

Still on the topic of the last couple days.

Yesterday, I was talking about Dispatch companies and how the Japan Education—and Labor!—ministries have a system of “cheap JETs” hovering around the JET Program. Because the Dispatch companies compete on price, the inevitable trend is that the Dispatch ALTs (assistant language teachers) are bid down in wages and benefits. Because Japan only haphazardly enforces its social insurance laws, even in instances where it agreed to coverage through an international treaty, the inevitable result is that the companies that don’t provide the insurances are the ones that win the dispatching contracts.

So the presence of JET sets a cap on what a person can achieve as a career as an English teacher in Japan. And since JET is set up as an “exchange program”, the “participants” aren’t really employees, and are expected to leave Japan at some point. So then the dispatch system underbids the JET, and creates the same kind of short-term work environment (at a supposed profit to the dispatch company), where the question of the benefit to the students is entirely left out.

One of my more dedicated commenters of the few I have, “Kei”, pointed something interesting out to me, incidentally, earlier today. In Osaka, the prefectural board had created something called the “NET”. I used NET to mean native English teacher, and lo and behold, I am not the only one to think up the acronym!

Well, the NETs are direct hires of the Osaka boards of education. But a businessman got the wise idea to create something called the “T-NET”. (Pronounced Tee-net, similar to the borough of Teaneck back in New Jersey.)

I just did a cursory internet search on T-NET, and what I discovered is that the “T” stands for temporary, and it’s an ALT Dispatch job!

How creative! It’s the same pattern as what you see with the JET and the companies like Interac. JET sets a standard and then something is set up to compete with JET. Osaka set up NET, and then someone came up with T-NET, which is a dispatch service provided by Eikaiwa chain ECC.

ECC is known to pay social insurance for their workers actually, so the wonder is why another dispatch company hasn’t come in and underbid their “T”-NET offering.

In fairness to the dispatch companies, this is tax and economic theory at work. If the government lets companies get away with not paying social insurance premiums—remember, this can be 20% of total compensation—and then puts in a bidding system for the work, the companies that avoid the cost are going to win the contract.

Does “Japan” know that it’s doing that? You bet. It’s like Pearl Harbor. The actual thing that Japan wanted to do was carried out in the shadows. The Japanese declaration of war was sent through different channels, and arrived in Washington sometime after the attack.

So here, the Japanese are clearly violating the totalization treaties BUT it’s done through a Rube Goldberg machine to make it look like the treaty violation is really just a byproduct of some other set of events that “Japan” had no control over. Just like, “oops, we were planning this attack on your main Pacific naval base for months, but somebody forgot to tell the ambassador in Washington to deliver the declaration of war until after the hostilities began. Just an oversight!”

Ultimately, the Japanese bureaucracy achieves:

a supply of foreigner “teaching staff” who come and go, and are paid the lowest amount possible;

at a cost of:

paying some head-hunting firm a finder’s fee plus an administrative fee, again competitively bid, so the lowest amount possible.

The parents depending on the Japanese education system to teach their children English are made to feel exposure to this foreigner pulled off the street is somehow going to work magic, when English—like everything else you learn—requires effort, dedication and some patience.

Simply because the JET Program shelters a certain part of this greater scam from its worst excesses doesn’t mean the JET Program is so great. In fact, as I originally said, I think it’s a boondoggle. It sets up the chess board for all the cutthroat action that happens later. And more than a few of the people that are recruited into it develop these unpleasant attitudes. (In part, because they are exchange-ees before they are teachers.)

This is why, if “Japan” wanted an English teaching system in this country, they would scrap the JET for a “Teach for Japan” program, where they would directly hire competent English teachers in a career role. Just like how chemistry and dozens of other subjects are taught here. It would mean the revolving door goes away, but would eliminate the Rube Goldberg scheming that is only going to come back and bite Japan in the ass in the future, anyway.