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June 08, 2005

Widespread Investigation Underway of Eikaiwa Industry

The Social Insurance Agency has launched a widespread investigation into foreign language schools that fail to register their teachers for social insurance. Some 750 companies nationwide, the vast majority of which run eikaiwa schools, are being investigated, with agency officials visiting schools to examine contracts and other documents. All full time workers employed for more than two months, regardless of nationality, are required to join the national health insurance and welfare pension schemes. The agency's stance is that schools are failing to sufficiently explain the system to foreign teachers, largely to avoid having to pay half their premiums as required by law. Some companies have been warned in the past, but the problem is still widespread, prompting the latest full-scale effort. Of the 1,200 teachers employed by Berlitz Japan, only 100 have voluntarily joined the schemes. Some companies, such as industry leader Nova, have teachers join insurance schemes run by their own subsidiaries.

According to a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry survey from 2002, the industry employs some 15,800 foreign teachers. Under the medical insurance scheme, the majority of medical expenses are covered by the government, with the employee paying 30%. Without coverage, all expenses must be borne by the teacher, such as in the case of a 32-year old Nova employee of five years who had to pay out ¥300,000 in hospital fees after suffering an injury at work. A Berlitz spokesman said, "Many foreign teachers stay in Japan for only a short time and don't want to join the schemes. But we intend to abide by the agency's directives." (from an Asahi Shimbun story)
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