Are Public Schools Actually “Black Companies” In Disguise?

May 16, 2017

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) released the preliminary result of “Survey Of The Work Of Teachers In Public Elementary And Junior High Schools (For The Year Of 2016)” for the first time in 10 years.

Compared to 10 years ago, teachers in elementary schools work for an average of 11 hours and 15 minutes on a business day – 43 minutes longer than previously documented.

In junior high schools, the average is 11 hours and 32 minutes – 32 minutes longer than previously documented.

33.5% of teachers in elementary schools and 57.6% in junior high schools perform overtime work for more than 80 hours a month – far beyond the level of recognition of workers’ accident.

“Club Activities On Weekends” take an average of 2 hours and 10 minute – almost double that of the 1 hour and 6 minutes from 10 years ago.

The entire document (and its results) can be found (in Japanese) here:

It’s also important to remember that there is no overtime pay for teachers working at public schools.

The worst part is that these terrible conditions aren’t even the entirety of the problem.



There is a little-known fact that many people may not believe: for such long working hours, overtime pay is not made to teachers according to their actual overtime working hours.

On January 1st, 1971, the “Act On Special Measures Concerning Salary Of Teaching Staff In Public Compulsory Education Schools” was enforced.

Paragraph 2, Article 3 of this Act states: “Overtime pay or holiday work pay shall not be paid to teaching staff”

Paragraph 1, Article 3 of this Act states: “The teaching staff adjustment allowance shall be paid according to the decision by the regulations amounting 4% of the salary as the standard.”

It was the legalization of the “fixed overtime pay” (4% of salary) for teachers in public schools which is illegal in the Labor Standards Act.

This “official statement” is far removed from the reality of a teacher’s daily working life.



What is described in the Act above, and in the directive/notification issued by the Ministry of Education (at that time), is rough states:

“The regulations of the working time in the Labor Standards Act are applied to teachers. All work should be done within the prescribed working hours under the direction and decision of the local governments and principals, and there basically should not be overtime. Only in temporary or emergent and unavoidable cases,  the local governments or principals can order overtime work to teachers without a 36 Agreement. Even in these cases, there shall not be extra pay based upon the number of hours of overtime work but it is the teaching staff adjustment allowance which is paid.”

The key phrases here are clearly that “[t]here should be no overtime work” and that overtime work “[c]an be accepted only in temporary or emergent and unavoidable cases.”

Keep in mind that this is an unquestionable “official statement”. However, it is so far from the reality of the actual facts of how much overtime teachers perform that it might as well be talking about something else entirely.

Recently, many people in Japan are talking about restrictions on long working hours and excessive overtime work. However, public school teachers are being conspiciously left out of the picture and entirely forgotten about when it such discussions.

Is this merely an oversight, or are public school teachers being purposefully overlooked?



The convenience of leaving public school teachers out of the equation and treating them as second class citizens (in relation to labor reforms) can only lead to one hard conclusion:

Under the current system which exploits public school teachers (via social pressure, etc) into performing exessive overtime work as “part of the reality” of being a teacher, public schools have become “black companies” in disguise.

For years, unpaid overtime work has beecome widespread as a “usual and daily matter” of a teacher’s responsibility, far removed from the wording of the offical statement. Instead, unpaid overtime and excessive hours have been normalized to such a degree that many might not even think that such conditions are so extreme.

It is so tragically detached from reality that it would be comical were it not so depressing, inevitably leading to the deterioration of education as a whole between teachers who are doing their best dispite being so worn-down, students who directly suffer from the exaustion of their teachers, and future generations who whom the passion of teaching might be deterred by the harsh reality of just how much (often voluntary) they will have to sacrifice in order to teach children.

How can a first-world country such as Japan permit such conditions to exist?



A significant percentage of our union members are working in public schools as ALTs. To that end, Japanese teachers are our friends and collegues, and this situation affects us. We know the reality, are surprised by it, and angry and upset as a result.

In the same workplaces, our union members are struggling against unacceptable disparity and job insecurity as irregular (hiseiki) employees in order to be able to work more ambitiously every day.

As workers in the same workplaces, we hope we can deepen mutual understanding more and support each other despite various differences.

The situation of teachers in public schools has to be improved for the sake of public morality and how Japan presents itself on the global stage.



(Translated from Japanese)