Japan Data

Stressed-Out Teachers Working Over 11 Hours a Day on Average

Education Society

The excessive workload of teachers in Japan was highlighted in a white paper on measures to curb karōshi (death from overwork) recently issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. Teachers surveyed recommended the hiring of additional staff, but school principals seem to be looking for less costly solutions.

A white paper on karōshi (death by overwork) issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare in fiscal 2018 found that, on average, teachers at elementary, junior high, and high schools work over 11 hours a day. In addition to their teaching duties, they have to perform many other tasks, such as responding to parents and guardians and directing school club activities. This has resulted in a situation where long working hours are the norm.

The white paper was first issued in fiscal 2016 to provide a basis for discussing measures to counter the problem. This year’s report analyzed certain professions that are prone to overwork, including teachers and healthcare providers.

According to the 35,640 valid responses received from the teachers surveyed, junior high school teachers had the longest average daily working hours (at ordinary times of the year), at 11 hours and 37 minutes. By position, vice-principals at junior high schools worked the longest, at 12 hours and 33 minutes, followed by senior teachers (shukan kyōyu) at 11 hours and 47 minutes and ordinary teachers at 11 hours and 30 minutes. The most frequently mentioned cause of excessive working hours, among the multiple reasons given by each respondent, was the “heavy personal workload,” cited by 69.6% of the respondents, followed by “sudden unexpected tasks” (53.7%) and the “need to perform work at certain times given the specific nature of the job” (48.9%).

As for what measures teachers thought were necessary to curb excessive working hours, the overwhelming majority, at 78.5%, pointed to the need to “hire more teachers.” Many of the surveyed teachers also recommended the introduction of a system for multiple teachers to share teaching or homeroom duties and for hiring of school club activity coaches and other support staff.

In contrast, school principals took a more negative view toward hiring additional staff, choosing instead the sorts of measures that would not require additional funding, such as making meetings shorter and more active intervention from management-level staff.

The survey also revealed that 80.7% of the respondents have suffered from work-related stress. The most commonly cited cause, by 43.4% of the respondents, was the frequency of long working hours, followed by 40.2% who pointed to coworker relations and 38.3% who mentioned interaction with parents and guardians or with PTA representatives.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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