What does the JET expansion mean for Japan?


Will the program spur the economy?

A few days ago, Josh brought word that the ruling Japanese political party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is planning to more than double the JET program over the next three years. All of this is part of Prime Minister Abe's plan to globalize the Japanese workforce -- they see a greater need for English education amongst its populace. Hence the promise of having a JET in every school in the country within ten years.

At the same time, this is part of the LDP reversing a number of decisions foisted upon it by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the LDP's eternal foe in parlamaint. Back in 2009, they held hearings to slash as much wasteful spending from the Japanese budget, and JET was on the chopping block along with a number of other programs -- at the time, a greater commotion focused on saving scientific research grants.

So what does this all mean for Japan? Well, a few things. Let's delve into it after the jump.

One of the immediate benefits of expanding the JET program is that Japan will see an increase in its foreign workforce, something it's been craving for several years. Japan had difficulty attracting talent since the late 2000s, due to the financial collapse and a stagnation of the job market. Having more than double the number of young foreigners coming to Japan means a moderate spike in spending as people acclimate themselves to their new lives, followed by more local growth as they make themselves a part of the community.

The country is still grappling with a low birthrate, and increasing foreigners is a quick shot in the arm to the overall health of the Japanese economy. I don't mean to say the foreigners will all immediately take up Japanese spouses and churn out five kids within three years -- they'll just provide a short-term increase in the number of people with spending power. 

For the average Japanese citizen, this increase in JET teachers will be most valuable in the rural areas of Japan. In the cities and other densely populated areas, JETs and private English language schools are more commonly accessible, so any family that wishes their kid to get a decent English education can pay to do so.

As for the farming communities, hours outside of any minor or major city, they will get a JET. That means kids who would quite possibly never run into a native English speaker in their lives suddenly have one dropped on their doorstep. They'll learn a lot more about the English language, for sure. And because English language comprehension is a part of the college entrance exam system, that means a few more kids will be able to go to college.

But will this be sustainable? There's no word of JET salaries increasing after they were slashed by the DPJ. We saw some of the English language schools go belly up -- notably NOVA and GEOS -- which is an indication of over-saturation in the private English-teaching world.

Higher salaries are going to be critical in determining the overall success of this. If Japan wants to attract quality talent, they are going to have to make a competitive offer in order to attract good teachers -- not just a chance to live in Japan. JET has long been criticized for the hit-or-miss nature of its teachers, and while the program has been good as a whole, this is a good opportunity to establish more stringent requirements than a college degree. I'm not proposing that you only hire people with Masters in Education -- that'd be too stringent -- instead I would rather see a longer recruiting timeframe and bootcamp in order to make sure the teachers are at the level the students need.

Remember, one bad teacher can screw up 30 kids. These things do need to be handled with care.

The proposal strikes me as a bit of a pipe dream, unless the Japanese government is willing to dip into some heavy spending in order to spur on the economy. People will sign up for the program, without a doubt. In the US alone, the job market for newly minted graduates is still rough, with no clear signs of abating. But that does not necessarily mean the quality will be there, and if it dips at all -- especially if the JET salaries stay low -- the program could be cut down once again.

Other parts of this overall growth plan is luring Japanese companies back from overseas via tax breaks and offering tax breaks to households spending on housekeeping and babysitting. Ultimately, the JET expansion is just one facet, but it shows that the LDP is focused on Japan's growth and prominence outside of its own borders.

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Brad Rice
Brad RiceFounder   gamer profile

Brad helped found in 2006, and currently serves as an Associate He's covered all aspects of the industry, but has a particular preference for the business-end of things, more + disclosures



Filed under... #Japanator Original #learn japanese #News #top stories #travel #weird news



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