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Japan’s Part-Time Lecturers Getting a Raw Deal

One-third of all part-time lecturers in Japan’s universities and junior colleges earn under two million yen a year ($17,963)—five times less than professors and full-time lecturers, a survey has found. And almost half of them have had their job contracts terminated, the survey, conducted by three unions of university part-time lecturers in the Tokyo, Osaka-Kobe, and Kyoto and Shiga areas, revealed.

The poll, carried out between November 2003 and March 2004 of this year took replies from 482 part-time lecturers, and arranged data from 302 of them who did not have another main job. The average age of the part-time lecturers was 42.4, and they had 10.3 years experience on average. Overall, each of them worked at an average of 2.7 schools, holding 9.1 classes a week lasting an average of 13.7 hours. Yearly wages for the lecturers stood at an average of 2.87 million yen ($25,770), but 34 percent earned under 2 million yen ($17,963) per year. Professors and full-time lecturers earned about five times more than this. Most universities offered the part-timers no expenses for materials, and they spent an average of 290,000 yen ($2,600) a year out of their own pockets on buying materials and other items, the survey found.

A total of 48 percent of the lecturers said they had experienced having their contracts terminated, for such reasons as that the number of classes had dropped. Thirty-four percent of them had experienced “academic harassment,” being hassled by full-time lecturers or their superiors. In the survey, several part-time lecturers said their classes had suddenly been dropped, and that they were subjected to unfair demands then threatened with dismissal when they refused.

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology figures list a total of 66,000 part-time lecturers in Japan, but ministry officials estimate the actual number at about one-third of this. Many of the part-time lecturers work on one-year contracts that are renewed. It is common for universities to bring in full-time lecturers as part-timers in highly specialized subjects, but in language courses and other subjects that have a large number of classes, the institutions often advertise for candidates to fill cheap, part-time positions. About 40 percent of classes at private universities are thought to be filled by part-time teachers.

“The level of classes that students demand from full-time lecturers and part-time lecturers is the same, but in spite of this there is a huge wage disparity,” a representative of the Union of University Part-time Lecturers in Osaka-Kobe Area said. “There is a problem with the structure of university education that treats part-time lecturers as cheap labor.” —from the Mainichi Daily News

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