The Tohoku Earthquake and JET

All of us with a tie to Japan have been watching the coverage of the March 11th Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunamis with a heavy heart, and of course we are thinking of those who lost their homes and loved ones.

I’m sure many of you aspiring JETs can’t help but wonder how this will affect the 2011 JET Program. I saw a thread pop up asking about it on a JET forum, and the general response was “How can you be asking that at a time like this?!” However, all shaming aside, I do think it’s a legitimate question, and this disaster will have an impact on the JET Program.

First off, you should probably just avoid asking this question on forums because you’ll just get a lot of heat. Also, no one on those forums is likely to have that information, and if they do, they probably aren’t in a position to make an unofficial announcement on a forum. Any announcement will probably come from the official JET Website or from your local consulate, and it’s best to just wait for this announcement rather than call up your JET coordinator (trust me, they’re busy right now).

At this point in the JET “cycle”, the interviews of prospective JETs are done, and contracting organizations have already sent in their requests for new JETs, so now it’s about tallying how many positions are open and compiling interview results. The notification of acceptance (“short-listed”) is normally sent to interviewees early to mid April, and then placements are decided mid to late May.

Someone on the thread I saw said that since the funding of JET has been called into question in the last year, they wouldn’t be surprise if the JET program is significantly scaled down or even canceled so funds are spent on disaster relief and rebuilding. Now I would say in the most affected prefectures (Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki) JET will be scaled down, to what degree is unknown. As for saying the program will be cut nationwide to use the funds, that’s a bit extreme. I feel like that’s saying if there’s a hurricane in Florida, the state of Illinois is expected to lay-off x-number of teachers and send the money directly to rebuilding efforts, I don’t think it works quite like that. The Japan government does subsidize each JET participant to a degree, but most of their salary, as well as their flights to Japan and hotel stay at the Tokyo Orientation, is paid by the local contracting organization.

Also, just to compare, the Kobe Earthquake of 1995 caused about $100 billion US in damage. That year, JET had about 4,600 participants, 500 more than the previous year, plus that was a time when new JETs were still being flown over in business class.

It’s my best guess that the short-list announcement might be delayed, the affected prefectures may take on few, if any, new JETs, but elsewhere I don’t see any reason JET placements won’t go forward as planned.

*Edit*: 3/21 From the JET Program Website Earthquake Page

5. Specifics regarding the future employment and related conditions for JET participants in areas directly affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis will be dealt with on a case by case basis depending on circumstances in respective contracting organisations and the wishes of respective JET participants. JET participants in areas other than those seriously affected will be treated as usual.