Friday, July 20, 2012

Teacher Perks

For those of you who work in the public or private school system in Japan, you have likely noticed that many teachers are always (or at least seem to be) very, very busy. To make matters worse, public school teachers aren't exactly rolling in money when you look at their raw salaries. However, there are some very substantial job perks that almost make the long days and low pay worth it.

Teacher's Union and Mutual Aid Society
Teachers with the proper education qualifications are almost always enrolled in one of two "mutual aid societies" (kyosai 共済), the Teachers' Mutual Aid and Cooperative Society (kyoshoku-in kyosai 教職員共済) or the Promotion and Mutual Aid Corporatin for Private School's of Japan (nihon watakushi-ritsu gakko koshinn kyosai jigyo-dan 日本私立学校振興・共済事業団). In addition, they can opt to join the local teacher's union (kyoshokui-in kumiai 教職員組合) and mutual benefit union (kyouiku-in gojo kumiai 教職員互助組合).

Until this year, the Teachers' Mutual Aid and Cooperative Society was a government-run organization that was initially set up to provide health insurance and pension service to public school teachers (teachers do not participate in the national pension scheme). However, the group has recently been non-profitized.  Over the years, mutal aid societies have come to offer a wide variety of services outside of basic pension and health insurance. Similarly, the local and national teacher union and mutual benefit unions provide extra benefits on top of the mutual aid society.

The Perks
Depending on the type of school and the policies of the prefecture, there may be differences in avaliable benefits in addition to the name of the organizations that dole out said perks.
  • Subsidized Loans- Both private and public school mutual aid societies offer subsidized loans. In addition, some teacher unions and mutual benefit unions also offer cut-rate loans. In the case of, Nagano Prefecture's mutual benefit union, teachers are entitled to a 2,500,000 yen personal short term loan with interest well below one percent (private companies normally charge 15-20 percent interest). Mutual aid societies also have seperate,similar systems for everything from personal loans to home renovation to wedding ceremony loans.
  • Access to Private Finance- If you work at a public school, chances are that your desk will soon become a depository for bank fliers advertising super low interest rates for home and auto loans. This is partially the result of banks negotiating with the local teachers' union, but also due to the fact that banks love to give loans to civil servants.This is in large part because it is very hard to fire public school teachers (more so than a private sector employee). Furthermore, since most prefectures calculate salary raises and bonuses based on fixed formula, it is easy to figure exactly how much a teacher will make in a life time in addition to a generous pension. Since banks in Japan are extremely conservative with their lending portfolios, teachers are considered a desirable group since they can help strengthen a bank's reliable loan portfolio.
  • Shopping and Traveling Perks- In my prefecture, the public school teachers are entitled to various perks such as a 30,000 yen voucher for new glasses as well as discounted admission to museums and amusement parts. This is paid for by the teachers' union and mutual benefit union.
  • Retirement, Marriage, and Pregnancy Money- Many teachers' unions offer extra payments for "special occasions" such as births, deaths, retirement, and marriage. This is in addition to any contractually obligated payouts such as lump-sum retirement benefits and supplemental pension.
  • Health Care Support- In addition to health insurance partially subsidized by tax payer money, many teachers are also entitled to fixed co-pay support. This basically means that the portion of the medical bill payed by the teacher or dependent (usually 30 percent of the total bill) will be reimbursed by the mutual benefit union.
  • Private Insurance Benefits- Mutual aid societies in various prefectures often have contracts with large insurers to provide discounted insurance products. This includes supplemental health insurance, life insurance, home insurance and auto insurance. In addition, some local unions offer "don't sue me insurance" just in case little Taro's parents get angry at you for being too strict and decide to call a lawyer or a student in your charge gets injured.
  • Marriage Service- Local mutual aid society branches and teacher's unions often advertise "arranged marriage services" (omiai kekkon お見合い結婚) for those too busy to hit the dating scene. In my prefecture, the local mutual benefit union operates hot line for older teachers to introduce younger teachers to perspective colleagues. In addition, they offer special group rates with a marriage arrangement service (operated by supermarket giant Aeon, oddly enough).
  • Scholarships- Unions and local branches of mutual aid societies often offer scholarships and grant to dependents looking to go to high school or college. 
However, whether or not these benefits are worth the long hours and stressful work environment is another question entirely.

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