LDP looks to double JET Program’s ranks in three years

BY AYAKO MIE

Japan Times APR 23, 2013

The number of teachers hired for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program would be doubled in three years under a proposal drafted by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to boost Japan’s global competitiveness and nurture international talent.

According to the draft of a midterm report by the LDP’s economic revitalization headquarters obtained Monday, the number of JET teachers would be increased to 10,000 from about 4,360 in 2012. The teachers also would be dispatched to all elementary, junior high and high schools within 10 years.

The JET Program was targeted for wasteful spending by the Democratic Party of Japan’s “shiwake” government revitalization unit before the young party was kicked out of power in the Lower House election in December.

The LDP views the use of native English speakers as vital to improving English-speaking ability at a time when it is moving toward making a passing score on the Test of English as Foreign Language mandatory for entering and graduating from college.

The proposal is in line with the growth strategies Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mapped out last Friday ahead of the July Upper House election. The strategies include globalizing the Japanese workforce and increasing the number of women in it by extending the length of maternity leave to three years from 18 months.

The proposal will be part of Abe’s real basic economic policies, which are being compiled by the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy for release in June — just a month before the House of Councilors election in July.

Fleshing out Abe’s pledge to fight the nationwide shortage of day-care centers, the LDP’s plan will also propose tax breaks for spending related to housekeeping, including baby-sitting and housekeeping fees.

According to media reports, the LDP will also try to lure back Japanese companies that have moved overseas to escape the strong yen by offering tax breaks for closing any factories built abroad and for building new ones in Japan.

Halting the manufacturing exodus will help prevent the hollowing out of Japanese industry.