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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 November 20 - 26  > Bill to introduce new work hour system increasing risk of ‘karoshi’ among public school teachers passes Lower House
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2019 November 20 - 26 [LABOR]

Bill to introduce new work hour system increasing risk of ‘karoshi’ among public school teachers passes Lower House

November 20, 2019

A bill to apply the variable working hour system on a year-round basis to public school teachers by revising the special measures law on public school teachers’ working conditions on November 19 passed the Lower House and went to the Upper House.

In the Lower House plenary meeting on the day, the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties and the “Nippon Ishin no Kai” party voted for the bill.

At the plenary meeting, prior to the vote, Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Hatano Kimie spoke out against the bill and condemned the House Education Committee chair for forcibly sending the bill to the plenary meeting by his authority. Hatano criticized the bill for applying to public schools the variable working hour system under which teachers are required to work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week when required. She stressed that if enacted, the bill will even worsen the problem of public school teachers’ excessively long working hours and said, “This bill will definitely increase the risk of death by overwork (karoshi).”

Hatano argued that in order to address the issue of overworked teachers, it is necessary to reduce their workloads, increase the number of teachers, and drastically revise the special measures law which imposes harsh working conditions on teachers.

Criticism is mounting against the bill to amend the special measures law for the introduction of the variable work hour system in public schools. Opponents say that the bill will drive more and more teachers to death from overwork. Diet deliberations on the bill have made it clear that the bill has many problems.

The government insists that under the proposed system, teachers work, for example, 9-hour days or longer during busy months such as during the beginning and the end of the school year and can take more days off during the summer vacation. However, in reality, even during the summer vacation period, teachers are busy giving supplementary lessons, attending training seminars, and supervising students’ after-school club activities. In the Diet discussions, the government failed to make a convincing argument that the summer vacation period is a quiet time workwise for teachers.

On the other hand, it was confirmed that if enacted, the bill will force teachers to work even longer hours than they do now. Furthermore, according to the government’s explanation, teachers will work extended work hours in April, June, and October. These three months, not coincidentally, are when teachers’ work-related deaths are often reported.

“If the bill is enacted, it will make it difficult for us to provide quality education to students and will lead to more deaths from overwork. Please help us,” a teacher who is experiencing harsh working conditions was quoted as saying in Diet deliberation. Many teachers fear health deterioration and even a death risk with the introduction of the variable work hour system.

The issue of teachers’ excessively long working hours should be addressed without delay. In order to achieve this, the need now is not to introduce the variable work hour system, but to revise the special measures law as it pertains to public school teachers.

Past related article:
> Gov’t plan to introduce variable working hour system will not reduce teachers’ excessively long working hours: expert [October 18, 2019]
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