January 1

What Happens When Interac Employees Are Stressed Out?


What Happens When Interac Employees Are Stressed Out?


Each summer, Interac ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) who are enrolled in social insurance are given a Stress Test. This digital assessment measures personal levels of stress at work and at home, and highly stressed employees are offered a consultation with a company-appointed counsellor.


Take the story of Tom, an Interac ALT based in Sapporo, who took the Stress Test in summer 2021. He scored in the red. Though initially hesitant, he chose to speak with a counsellor.


Over the phone, Tom shared that he was having a tough time living in Japan on the low wages Interac paid him. He could not afford to do much more than go to work and stay home; he could scarcely afford to see his friends, never mind the country he’d worked so hard to reach. His friends were starting to leave, as they ran out of money too, and he was becoming more isolated. Worse, he increasingly found himself having to take on debt to make ends meet, and laid awake at night worrying about paying it off.


The counsellor was sympathetic, and told him that he should tell Interac how he felt. They also suggested he set personal goals and try to manage his issues gradually. Despite this, Tom expressed his reservations about Interac’s policies, as they hadn’t raised wages or provided bonuses. When the counsellor offered to relay these concerns, Tom reluctantly agreed. As you can guess, nothing changed. Weeks became months, but Tom heard nothing back from the counsellor and nothing from Interac.


For those familiar with Interac’s history, such indifference isn’t surprising. The company seems to seriously undervalue the financial and emotional welfare of its staff. Most union members have not seen a single yen increase in salary in years. With Japan’s living costs on the rise, essential workers across the country are seeing their living situations grow ever more precarious and ALT dispatch companies have all found themselves struggling to hire and retain staff, but Interac will do anything to avoid addressing the root of the problem.


What happens when Interac employees are stressed out? Eventually, they burn out. Those of us who’ve been here a long time know too many people who’ve had to drop out of their dream job in Japan and return home, either because they could no longer afford to live or their health was failing from the stress. The teachers who remain are increasingly those who’ve already settled permanently in Japan, or are from poorer backgrounds and cannot afford to leave so easily, and are therefore more easily exploited.


This article is more than just a recounting of grievances—it’s a rallying cry. Interac has acted and will continue solely in the service of its bottom line. Only together can we push them to make better choices, for our schools and communities as well as for each other. There’s power in a union. Join us.



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