Lets Japan gets a steady stream of email from people asking for advice on how to get a job in Japan or whether they should make the journey on their own. We receive so many of these messages that we feel we should have started a consultancy not a blog.
A typical reply usually includes some mixing and matching of the following:
Things, however, have taken a turn for the worse:
The economy plummeted at an annualized pace of 12.7 percent in the three months through December, the worst fall in the past 35 years. Gross domestic product for 2008 shrank 0.7 percent in real terms, compared with 2.4 percent growth in 2007.
The Cabinet Office in a report released Monday said weak overseas and domestic demand led the GDP to contract for the third straight quarter, following an annualized 2.3 percent July-September fall.
"This is the worst crisis in the postwar era. There is no doubt about it," economic and fiscal policy minister Kaoru Yosano said.
NO ONE expected good news. Yet Japan’s GDP data for the final three months of last year, published on Monday February 16th, still managed to shock. The preliminary estimate suggested that the economy had shrunk at an annualised rate of 12.7% during the period, the third consecutive quarter of contraction. The speed and scale of the slump leaves behind anything that happened after 1990, when Japan’s bubble burst. Looking for something comparable in Japan’s post-war history, only the effects of the first oil crisis of 1973-74 outscores it—and this slump is far from over.
Japan's economy is in free fall. Major manufacturers have already gone through one round of layoffs and production shutdowns, and there is no indication that things will get better soon:
According to the latest government estimates, released last month, some 125,000 part-time workers will lose their jobs by March. Labor officials cannot follow what happens to all those who lose their employment, but of the 45,800 who have been tracked, the government found 2,700 became homeless.
Private estimates go much higher — to upward of 400,000 new jobless by the end of next month — and say more than 30,000 of them will become homeless, nearly double the country's nationwide homelessness figure. By the official count, the number of homeless is 16,000 and has been slightly decreasing for several years.
"This is just the beginning," said Hitoshi Ichikawa, a ministry official in charge of labor policies. "There will be many more in coming weeks and months."
Politically, Japan is a basket case. The Aso government is quickly running out of that most-important type of political capital: credibility. Shoichi Nakagawa's embarrassing press conference has become a full-blown crisis for the Aso government. Despite his quick departure, the government does not appear to have a coherent plan for leading Japan out of recession. It has already decided on two stimulus packages and is now considering a third. Given that past spending efforts only helped to create a crushing debt that is 180% of GDP, adding to it isn't a plan for success. If Nakagawa's drinking proves to be the final nail in the Aso government's coffin, Ichiro Ozawa and the DJP, likely to take the Lower House in the next election, haven't been very vocal as to how they would fix things, either.
A zombie government, the unwinding of job security, and the loss of income translates into a collapse in discretionary spending. For neo-Nova and eikaiwa as a whole, this may further prolong and deepen the "Nova shock". Job conditions aren't any better. Pay is down, legal battles over wages remain, and students are still smarting over the loss of their tuition fees.
My point is that if you're thinking of coming to Japan to teach, now is not the time. You're better off putting this idea on the back burner. If you're already here, it's time to batten down the hatches. You, too, need a plan if you wish to avoid finding yourself in a situation similar to the clusterfuck that ensued when NOVA collapsed. Update your resume. Get out of debt. Have a plan for returning home if things go really bad. Above all, have cash on hand. Lots of it. If you don't have any savings, get some. Find a better-paying job, take an extra gig on the side, earn more, and seriously cutback on your expenses. Things are going to get worse in Japan before they get better.
Adamu at Mutantfrog has an informative post on how the number of JETs, eikaiwa teachers, and non-JET ALTs has changed in recent years. It's well worth reading.