Everybody's got an opinion about the JET Programme. Some say that it's great, some say that it's a waste. But compared to American jobs, how does it work out? I recently read the book "Nickel and Dimed" about a lady who gave up her cushy upper-middle class life to try to get by as a lower-class individual working low-paying, menial jobs. I can't talk too much, but I did have some unattractive jobs during my high school days and summer breaks, in addition to time spent working full-time in retail. Obviously, those jobs are going to have many differences from teaching English overseas.
So looking at things through that prism, how does JET work out? Well, excepting the occasional outdoor activity or festival, it is white collar work, more or less. You won't be at risk for too many work hazards or repetitive stress injuries. The pay is more than enough for a single individual to get by on. There are disadvantages as well. Almost certainly you'll have living conditions much lower that can be expected in the States- cramped, unheated living quarters, minimal privacy, all of that good stuff. Still, it beats having to live in a motel because you can't scrape together enough cash for a deposit on an apartment, like the author saw with some of her coworkers.
Anyways, if you're poor and stuck working crap jobs, you probably don't have health insurance. Myself, I'd been having ear problems for about, oh a little over a week or so. It was a dull pain in my ear, a little sore throat, tough to hear at times. Obviously something was wrong, but it wasn't debilitating, so at first the attitude was just to work through it. Finally, after realizing that the problem just wasn't going to go away, and that I was covered by the national health insurance, I finally made an appointment to go see a specialist. Turns out, I had octitis media, aka a middle ear infection, and I had to have a quick procedure to remove some gunk from behind my eardrum. After about a week, I'm feeling much better and my hearing has been restored to normal. What's the point? Well, if I was stuck working some crap job, without health insurance, I wouldn't have gone to the doctor. I would have just dealt with the pain for who knows how long, at cost to my standard of living. Additionally, I probably wouldn't have had the time either. But now I'm feeling better and can do my job to full effectiveness, instead of just slumming it out. Having that insurance makes a big, big difference.