On Monday, January 31st, twelve members of the 2021-2022 AJET National Council held an online meeting with representatives from MIC, MOFA, MEXT, and CLAIR to discuss and exchange opinions on the JET Programme, the AJET report on power harassment and support systems, the impact of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and more.
[ NOTE: In March 2022, CLAIR sent us a document containing official written answers to a number of our questions. You may view this document here.]
You can view the full presentation from National AJET below!
The meeting commenced at 9:00 AM and began with opening remarks from the director of CLAIR. He highlighted ways that CLAIR is seeking to adapt their support and training in response to the numerous changes caused by the pandemic. NAJET co-chairs Steven Coyne and Laura Huff then provided their remarks on the challenges JETs across the country have faced over the previous year and how they hope to work with CLAIR to address these challenges.
Presentation from AJET Peer Support Group
The presentations from the AJET National Council began with a presentation by PSG Representative Stephanie Reetz, who gave an overview of the activities of the Peer Support Group (PSG). Her presentation highlighted the growing numbers of JETs reporting feelings of isolation during the pandemic, amongst other related issues. View PSG’s presentation here.
Power Harassment and Support Systems on the JET Programme
The AJET 2021 report, “Power Harassment and Support Systems on the JET Programme,” was presented by Jessica Craven, Project Manager for AJET, to CLAIR and the three Ministries. The report highlighted the prevalence of problems reported in the 2021 annual survey, such as harassment, discrimination, and assault for JET Programme participants. Although the report noted that assault or discrimination are larger societal issues that cannot be easily solved by one party, NAJET encouraged CLAIR to consider measures such as distributing information about the issues and prevention both at Tokyo orientation and at prefectural orientations held throughout the year. While NAJET notes that this alone is not enough to solve the problem, we discussed other possible measures CLAIR could approve, such as allowing victims of sexual assault to transfer to another prefecture more easily.
Craven also presented data on the relatively high number of JETs who report working overtime without receiving compensatory time off. To address this problem, NAJET recommended the following measures: standardizing the overtime policy in the JET contracts, providing ALTs with a system to record overtime hours similar to what many CIRs have, and providing a reporting system for CIRs receiving such high volumes of overtime work that they are unable to take the compensatory leave they have accrued. In response to the data that 65% of JET Programme participants do not have guaranteed access to sick leave even during a pandemic, NAJET recommended guaranteeing sick leave in all JET participants’ contracts. Finally, Craven reported on some challenges unique to the PA role, such as concerns about first-year JETs serving as PAs, lack of resources, the inconsistency of the role across the country, and the additional overtime (often uncompensated) that it entails. In response to these issues, NAJET recommended that CLAIR update their training and resources. In addition, NAJET recommended providing a system for PAs to keep track of hours worked due to the role.
JET Programme participants’ experiences related to COVID-19
The second half of NAJET’s report was presented by Joseph Tritschler, who conducted an additional survey on JET Programme participants’ experiences related to COVID-19 upon the request of the Ministry of Internal Communications (MIC). The report highlighted that many JET participants feel “confused, unsafe, and unappreciated” as they continue to take on increasing workloads and suffer from an erosion of support networks during the pandemic. Particularly, the JET Program participants surveyed reported a desire for clear information, a work-from-home or flex hour system, and clear rules for travel. The border restrictions imposed by the Japanese national government were cited as a common cause of stress, with 1 in 4 JET participants reporting not having enough leave to travel abroad given the quarantine requirement. In addition, if participants return home, there is a large gap between Contracting Organizations regarding their policies. Some COs provide special leave to fulfill the quarantine requirement, while others only permit unpaid leave. JET participants reported wanting CLAIR to make a statement standardizing these conditions. In summary, JET participants report frequently feeling forgotten, alone, and unappreciated by their COs and the Japanese government. In response to this, NAJET has called for a strong stance from the government of Japan affirming the positive impact of JET participants’ work.
Answer and Question Section
The discussion continued with a question and answer session in the afternoon, during which AJET members were free to make additional inquiries to representatives from CLAIR. AJET members asked several questions, first bringing up the transfer system and the lack of information surrounding it. In response to this inquiry, CLAIR responded that they may include information about the transfer deadline in their newsletter or the General Information Handbook in future years. AJET also asked CLAIR if they can be of better support to JETs who may have difficulties returning to their home country if strict border restrictions remain in place. A representative at CLAIR said their personal opinion would be to apply for a “job-hunting visa” in Japan to stay up to an additional six months while either securing a flight home or acquiring a new job in Japan. CLAIR is carefully reviewing the contents of NAJET’s presentations and reports while considering how to best update their services in response to the most recent challenges. The Opinion Exchange concluded around 3 p.m. In the interests of transparency, you can view all of the notes from this meeting session here.
We at NAJET sympathize with all of the concerns of the JET community during this difficult time, and we truly hope that CLAIR takes actions to strengthen the systems that are currently in place but have been weakened during the pandemic. We appreciate how frustrating the slow pace of progress and recovery is during this difficult time. If you would like to see all of the questions asked by NAJET during the Opinion exchange, please see the attached file below. If you have any further inquiries or concerns, please contact .
The twelve NAJET members in attendance were as follows: Laura Huff (Co-Chair), Steven Coyne(Co-Chair), Spencer Viernes (Vice Chair), Jessica Craven (Project Manager), Joseph Tritschler (Project Manager), Paul Shaw (Translation & Interpretation Coordinator), Anna Ayvazyan (Director of Alumni Relations), Aidan Tomokazu Wong (Director of Alumni Relations), Julia Sanua (Director of Digital Resources and Webmaster), Prima Shariff (Director of Social Media), Stefanie Reetz (Peer Support Group Representative), and Daniel Cruse (Interpreter).