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Is Japan a wise choice?

 
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projectgenesis



Joined: 15 Jul 2010
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:25 pm    Post subject: Is Japan a wise choice? Reply with quote

Hi, I am obviously not expecting you to tell me what to do, but if you could make things a little easier I would be greatful. I am considering teaching in Japan like just about everyone else it seems these days, but like AdamtheJohnson has stated, there seems to be so much doom and gloom and I have read and heard so much negativity that I have to ask myself is it really worth it anymore! I have a BA and I busted my ass to get my Tesol, I have also invested so much time and effort in learning Japanese. Japan just doesn't seem like a wise decision at the moment and I am really indecisive about what to do. Should I stay at home and wait for the market to pick up a little?(But I guess there is so much competition)Should I just take the plunge and go for it? Or maybe I would be better trying for Korea, there seems to be more opportunity to earn and save out there. At least I can save money because start up costs are less and I guess, I could try to learn Korean. I am so confused right now because I really dont want to delay not using my tesol for too long as the schools abroad might prefer recent graduates. Help please!!!!!
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Samurai



Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 57
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If your heart is set on Japan and everything you've done has been geared towards teaching in Japan then why give up now...? The best gig for you would be the Jet Program. Checkout their website and start filling in those forms etc. Get your name in the hat...places will be fewer than previous years...but, just like a lottery, you've got to be in it to win it! Give yourself a chance...by all means have a back-up plan...but try your first choice first!
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ghostrider



Joined: 30 May 2006
Posts: 147

PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are so many threads on this now. No one here can give you a confident answer. I would say aim for Japan, try your best, but keep in mind if you aren't able to find a decent paying job, it may not be worth it unless you actually prefer living in the country and not going out so much. If you find a 235,000yen/month job, that's enough to get started here and you're going to have to fight for a better paying one. If you're stuck in the bottom level after 2-3 years, you may want to consider other options. It may not be your skills and qualifications but rather a lack of jobs here that really want more experienced TEFL teachers. I'd keep an open mind to Korea at this point. You can start there and try for Japan from there (though applying for some eikaiwa jobs and doing JET interviews may not be possible in Korea), or vice versa if things don't work out here.
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southofreality



Joined: 12 Feb 2007
Posts: 579
Location: Tokyo

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Look... The situation is simple.

There are jobs here. There are fewer of them now than before, but there still is a fair amount of turnover in the jobs available.

Get your act together, make yourself a solid candidate, persist, and get on with the business of living and working in Japan.

Nuff said.
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cafebleu



Joined: 10 Feb 2003
Posts: 404

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

See below - I double posted. Sorry.

Last edited by cafebleu on Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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cafebleu



Joined: 10 Feb 2003
Posts: 404

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To the OP - I've warned on a sticky about working in South Korea and also assessed realistically the problems of trying to earn a living as an English teacher in Japan now. Look at the sticky about Japan and Korea on this forum.

BUT if you want to work as an English teacher in the face of the diminishing opportunities and quality of jobs out there, here's some advice. Although I don't work in Japan anymore, I know enough about the costs of setting up there. You have to ask yourself: Am I willing to sacrifice financially for an entry level job in English teaching in Japan? Is all the money I have to pay out worth it?

I didn't work in Japan in the Bubble period where there were jobs going to anybody who was an English speaker and most of those jobs paid extraordinarily well. I did work in Japan when there were far more opportunities than now, however, and it wasn't a particularly good job market though adequate even then.

You are up against it now - major chain schools have gone bust, the trend is for smaller/small eikaiwa (English schools) to employ teachers part time. Most of the job ads I've seen when just surfing the net are for people already in Japan. If you get a job with the English chains left now, chances are you will be working harder for less money and no benefits.

You will have to foot the bill for your health care costs, and you will be classified as 'self employed' when your employer does not pay half of your healthcare/pension costs. Even when I was teaching in Japan, it was a common trick to classify your full time English teacher in such a way that the employer did not have to pay shakai hoken (social insurance) because according to their dishonest assessment, the teacher is 'part time'. Evil or Very Mad

Therefore the teacher has to join the kokumin kenko hoken - social insurance for the self employed and it is a big expense because you pay it all yourself.

I was one such teacher. I worked around 40 hours a week (certainly not part time!) and I paid around 25,000 yen a month (about 125 English pounds or 250 US dollars) for the NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE, NOT A PRIVATE COMPANY! I managed to get out of paying the pension part of the 'social insurance for the self employed' because then you could but it would have been about 110 US dollars or a little less per month.

Rather expensive for any teacher on the (very) average income of 250,000 yen before tax. Now the jobs being offered are usually less than that but you will still have to pay around 10 percent of your income on health insurance and you'll have to pay the pension if your local city hall insists when you sign up for the health insurance.

Factor in that almost every ad from a Japanese employer I've seen tells you that they will be your 'guarantor' for housing (you can't rent a place in Japan without a guarantor unless you know somebody or have a relative who owns the housing) but you must pay the rent and utilities. Sometimes they inflate these costs so they can take a cut especially if the rent and utilities comes out of your paycheck.

I didn't fall for that - I insisted on paying the rent and utilities myself after I'd received my salary. But many teachers have no such choice.

There is also the matter of big money deposits called various names that often are not really deposits because you can't get a large amount of money back as Japanese landlords usually will keep your money even if you didn't do any damage to the accommodation. Again, many Japanese employers will take a deposit from your salary so you're scraping by financially for some months.

Korea is a far better financial proposition for the average English teacher without teaching qualifications/MA/Phd, a great working history on their cv. Even in Japan if you have those assets you're not necessarily going to get job other than an entry level position of the kind I've described above.

The catch with Korea is the absolute disorganisation of employers, from small/smaller schools to the public/private schools sytem, elementary and secondary. You'd think that Govt sponsored jobs are better but now many of them are not. South Korea is going through a renewed xenophobic phase which is bad news as at the best of times when I worked there, irrational nationalism was a common feature of Korean life. Rolling Eyes

The school system is actively discouraging or getting rid of experienced English teachers (with or without teaching qualifications). I'm a qualified teacher but some of the best teachers I knew when I worked in Korea simply had a BA but loads of other work experience and life experience.

From my friends still in Korea, the Govt is actively seeking out unemployed graduates mostly from North America and Canada, although South Africans are popular too because many of them will accept low salaries with no quibbling. Of course there are teachers from the UK, Aus, NZ too, but the proliferation of uni graduates from the US is down to the fact that they have little knowledge of the system and are willing to accept sh##house contracts. Mad

Last year in South Korea teachers in the Govt school schemes had their contracts broken, vacation scuttled, and were forced at many schools to come in all day during vacation.

There is no protection against this exploitation because while you can take an employer at a hagwon (the equivalent of a Japanese juku, an after-school school/cram school) to the Labor Board and win, the Govt is your employer in schemes like EPIK, SMOE, GEPIK etc.

The Koreans will always remind you in public schools that you are a kind of 'guest worker'. The overwhelming majority of public school (and private school contracts in the school system) say the foreigner is a 'Teaching assistant'. However, many foreign English teachers run classes by themselves and do a lot of extra work. Meanwhile their absent Korean 'co teacher' is sleeping in the teachers' room or snacking or using their computer - basically being a truant and refusing to teach with the foreign English teacher. Evil or Very Mad

Contrary to myths I read on the net, foreign English teachers do not get paid more than Korean teachers. This is only if the Korean English teacher is straight out of university or only in their job for a few years. So foreign English teachers are getting paid around 1,8000 to 2,400 dollars (US) to handle the same work as a Korean teacher for less than half the money.

If you really must go to Korea, hunt around for a hagwon (after school school) job. But even then your way will be blocked by recruiters as very few people can approach schools directly unlike in Japan. If you know people in Korea, approach them. If you can afford it, go job hunting there.
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ghostrider



Joined: 30 May 2006
Posts: 147

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cafebleu: Thanks for the reality check with Korea. It doesn't sound like the situation is much better there. Perhaps the main benefit is being able to save a bit more money as an entry level worker.

I suppose being largely ignored and excluded by Japanese men beats hostile treatment from xenophobic Koreans.

I wonder about Taiwan and China.

Yeah, the national health insurance and residence tax are no joke here. My monthly payments are similar. I've known a few people who have fallen a year+ behind and of course at any point the government can decide to take the money directly from your bank account. It seems most contracts, even the slightly better ones, use this trick. If you're staying only one year, you don't have to worry about these. It's a bit of a shock after that though.


Last edited by ghostrider on Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:42 am; edited 2 times in total
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womblingfree



Joined: 04 Mar 2006
Posts: 826

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

southofreality wrote:
Look... The situation is simple.

There are jobs here. There are fewer of them now than before, but there still is a fair amount of turnover in the jobs available.

Get your act together, make yourself a solid candidate, persist, and get on with the business of living and working in Japan.

Nuff said.


Quoted for truth!
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shostahoosier



Joined: 14 Apr 2009
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 5:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cafebleu wrote:

The catch with Korea is the absolute disorganisation of employers, from small/smaller schools to the public/private schools sytem, elementary and secondary. You'd think that Govt sponsored jobs are better but now many of them are not. South Korea is going through a renewed xenophobic phase which is bad news as at the best of times when I worked there, irrational nationalism was a common feature of Korean life. Rolling Eyes

Korea is very disorganized. While there's definitely xenophobia, I'm not sure about "renewed xenophobia" lol. Id say more people are getting used to foreigners being around, and younger people are definitely getting comfortable, thanks in part to being exposed to foreign English teachers (like Japan and the JET program).

cafebleu wrote:

The school system is actively discouraging or getting rid of experienced English teachers (with or without teaching qualifications). I'm a qualified teacher but some of the best teachers I knew when I worked in Korea simply had a BA but loads of other work experience and life experience.


The Korean government cut a big chunk of funding out of the English teaching program, so many school boards are trying to cut corners by hiring entry level teachers. It is easier to be hired with less experience/qualifications...but you just said yourself that some of the best teachers you worked with only had a BA.


cafebleu wrote:

From my friends still in Korea, the Govt is actively seeking out unemployed graduates mostly from North America and Canada, although South Africans are popular too because many of them will accept low salaries with no quibbling. Of course there are teachers from the UK, Aus, NZ too, but the proliferation of uni graduates from the US is down to the fact that they have little knowledge of the system and are willing to accept sh##house contracts. Mad


The Korean government prefers North American accents and American culture. I dont think it's right, but that's what they want, not unlike Hong Kong wanting their teachers to speak British English. Also, I'm not sure what nationality has to do with salary. South African, British or Canadian, the contracts (at least for public schools) are set by experience. South Africans working in public schools wont quibble about being paid less than American teachers because they arent being paid less.

cafebleu wrote:

Last year in South Korea teachers in the Govt school schemes had their contracts broken, vacation scuttled, and were forced at many schools to come in all day during vacation.


Seoul public schools hired too many people last year because they were used to teachers bailing. Because of the recession, fewer people bailed and they had a surplus. Of course, in typical, disorganized Korean fashion, they waited until the last minute to tell the prospective new teachers (think the night before leaving for the airport - TOTALLY INEXCUSABLE) and it was a disaster. That hasnt happened since. However, contracted vacations days havent been "scuttled" (it's a contract) and many teachers are forced to come to school when there are no classes, but they're also paid 100% salary, not partial salary like in many public schools in Japan.


cafebleu wrote:

There is no protection against this exploitation because while you can take an employer at a hagwon (the equivalent of a Japanese juku, an after-school school/cram school) to the Labor Board and win, the Govt is your employer in schemes like EPIK, SMOE, GEPIK etc.


Is this so different than Japan? Also, public schools are far less likely to break contract requirements with you, but inversely they're also far more likely to follow the rules that you probably dont want them to follow, such as coming to work when there are no students.


cafebleu wrote:

The Koreans will always remind you in public schools that you are a kind of 'guest worker'. The overwhelming majority of public school (and private school contracts in the school system) say the foreigner is a 'Teaching assistant'. However, many foreign English teachers run classes by themselves and do a lot of extra work. Meanwhile their absent Korean 'co teacher' is sleeping in the teachers' room or snacking or using their computer - basically being a truant and refusing to teach with the foreign English teacher. Evil or Very Mad


Isnt this the same complaint we hear in Japan? That English teachers are "assistant" teachers and that the all authority goes to the native Japanese teacher? Regarding truancy, while there have been plenty of documented instances, I think your generalization is quite gross.


cafebleu wrote:

Contrary to myths I read on the net, foreign English teachers do not get paid more than Korean teachers. This is only if the Korean English teacher is straight out of university or only in their job for a few years. So foreign English teachers are getting paid around 1,8000 to 2,400 dollars (US) to handle the same work as a Korean teacher for less than half the money.


ESL teachers in Korea dont make great money but they arent being paid "less than half". Experienced Korean teachers arent making 3,600 to 4,800 a month unless they've put in some serious time (near retirement). On average, I've heard that Korean teachers get a raise of about $1200 a year in salary.

cafebleu wrote:

If you really must go to Korea, hunt around for a hagwon (after school school) job. But even then your way will be blocked by recruiters as very few people can approach schools directly unlike in Japan. If you know people in Korea, approach them. If you can afford it, go job hunting there.


This is the absolute worst advice you could possibly give a newbie. Hagwons are far more likely to screw you over than public schools, and even more so now since the private academy industry is in decline. If you do go the hagwon route (some are good and they can pay quite well), you need to really research them and talk to the teachers that work there or the ones that have just left.

Also, there's nothing wrong with using a recruiter if you use them correctly and some hagwons will hire you directly (to save money from paying a recruiter). If you know people in Korea, you should DEFINITELY approach them. A friend of mine is part Korean and her mom's friend at church has gotten her a job offer at a very good hagwon in central Seoul.

If you arent young, North American, or female, I would NOT recommend going to Korea to go job hunting as the market is pretty flooded right now you may find yourself with no job or money. Another negative is that you might lose out on flight reimbursement money thats schools almost always give you. Also, if this is your first visa, you need to apply from the US (if you are American).

OP, if your true desire is Japan, then you should go for Japan. A lot of people in Korea actually are happy (contrary to popular belief), but usually the foreigners who go to Korea but really wanted Japan end up unhappy.

There are jobs in Japan, you just need to look hard and keep your eyes open. Heck, I was recently offered full-time one by a woman that I sat next to on the Shinkansen for the short trip between Osaka and Nagoya. All I did was smile and start a conversation with her and before I left I had her card for the school her and her husband manage (not sharing lol). I have no interest in eikawa work though so I didnt really bother to get specifics.

Japan is much cleaner, better organized, and has a higher standard of living than Korea. However, Korea isnt the backwater swamp that many people make it out to be.

There are also many other great places in Asia to teach. Research them all and keep this in mind...no matter what you hear....horror stores or miracles, every situation is different.

Good luck!
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re: the health insurance situation

Yes, many employers these days try to get around making copayments by doing what cafebleu stated. That does not mean it is right or legal or unavoidable. Plus, the union is working to resolve this.

Also, to say that health insurance is expensive is relative. The first year, kokumin is only around 2500 yen/month. So, if someone wants to come and try out the waters, it won't cost a lot. It's after that year that things go up tenfold.

As for pension, you can get back most of 3 years' worth, so again, if someone stays short-term, that's not lost to the ether. Besides, it's technically against the law to skip out on paying it.
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Mr. Kalgukshi
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Joined: 18 Jan 2003
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Location: Anxious? Stressed? Repeat the following 300 times daily: A wet robin never flies at night.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you wish to discuss living and teaching in Korea, please do it on the Korean board. Separate registration is required.
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