Japan has it all. From jaw-dropping vistas, stunning nature, clean and safe cities, rich culture and art, not to mention its temples and castles are amazing to behold. It’s one of the most diverse countries and claims one of the largest cities in the world. The ever-vibrant cities in Japan have been attracting an increasing number of foreigners who are interested in working abroad. Working anywhere in this country can be financially and culturally rewarding. So, whether you aspire to be a highly skilled professional, teach English, or just looking for a short-term gig, the Japanese job market is bound to offer something that suits you. Note that the Japanese Yen (¥) is the currency used in Japan, and it equals 0.0092 US Dollars ($) as of November 2019.
What is the average salary in Japan? The average gross salary in Japan is around $75,376 per year, 6,280/month, and $36.24 an hour. The average NET salary is around $2,556.09 per month. The highest salaries are found in the cities of Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka at an annual average gross of $84,095, $82,665, and $81,233 respectively. Industries with the highest salaries include construction/real estate, medical, manufacturing, finance, IT, and general trading. Also, expect the average salary to increase by age group.
Up until the early 2000s, the Japanese job market wasn’t welcoming to foreigners. Work visas were limited, Japanese language requirements were high, and the government prioritized local workers over foreigners. This has, however, changed in recent years due to the increase in international companies and a declining population among other things. Expatriates are finding more opportunities to work here with less stringent requirements. That being said, relocating to an unknown land can be a daunting task. Check out the guide I’ve put together below, summarising all you need to know about working in Japan to help things run much more smoothly.
The Average Salary in Japan
Salaries in Japan have been increasing, and show no signs of slowing down. If you’re looking to join the Japanese labor force market, it’s probably best to look at the average salaries by occupation. The figures below are the average annual gross salaries, meaning the take-home pay is less.
- Accountant – $54,200
- Architect – $66,407
- Cashier – $45,035
- Chef – $61,718
- CEO – $176,666
- CFO – $166,588
- Computer technician – $58,687
- Developer/programmer – $69,924
- Engineer – $68,154
- Flight attendant – $65,184
- Graphic designer – $54,780
- Human resource manager – $107,332
- Internal auditor – $76,419
- Lawyer – $115,978
- Nurse – $61,341
- Photographer – $54,515
- Police officer – $59,693
- Receptionist – $53,997
- Teacher – $59,745
Japan has one of the largest economies in the world, which is largely based on the manufacturing, electronics, and automobile industries. The manufacturing sector focuses on high-tech goods such as hybrid vehicles and robotics, which ranks Japan as the most innovative country in the world. This means that if you have an eye for innovation and creativity, Japan is the place you could thrive in. Other major Japanese industries include agriculture, IT, pharmaceuticals, tourism, transport, and services.
The Japanese job market
Japan has a population of about 126.8 million and a labor force participation rate of 62.5%. The service industry has the highest rate of foreign participation, but also the lowest-paying sector with an average annual salary of about $16,152.
In addition to the services sector, expats will find more job opportunities in banking, teaching, IT, sales, gastronomy, translation, engineering, and manufacturing sectors. Likewise, those with an interest or experience in offshore manufacturing or robotics will find it easier to get employment than those in other career fields. Development and research are other popular fields to work in as a foreigner.
How to find a job in Japan
First off, getting a job in this country from overseas is difficult. That’s because a failed overseas hire is expensive for a Japanese company, making it a financial risk. An employer will have to help with your relocation, train you, and spend time getting you acquainted with the Japanese culture. If things don’t work out, the company has to spend their resources again. For this reason, companies are more willing to consider candidates who are already in Japan, functioning in it, and know some Japanese.
The Japanese workforce is competitive, and jobs that foreigners can apply for are quite limited. Here are some reputable websites where you can find job adverts: Daijob, GaijinPot, JobsInJapan, Tokyo Connections, JapanEnglishTeacher.com, and Jetprogramme.org.
To be eligible to work in Japan, you’ll need a university degree or at least 10 years of work experience in your career field. Despite lessening its language requirement, foreign workers in Japan are still expected to know some Japanese and show an intention to continue learning it while living there.
The Japanese workforce is quite demanding with people generally working for 60 hours a week. Japanese workers are very dedicated to their jobs, tend to stay with the same company throughout their careers, view their co-workers as family, and are business savvy.
Japan Average Household Income
The annual household income per capita in Japan reached $18,265 in December 2018, which is an increase from last year’s value of $17,042. This figure is updated yearly and has been available since 2000 to 2018. It recorded a low of $14,845 in December 2002 and reached an all-time high of $22,731 in December 2012. There’s still a wage gap between Japanese households, but it has slightly improved from a record-high disparity. This is partly due to the rise in income levels, following economic recovery.
Minimum Wage in Japan
Minimum wage is the lowest hourly/monthly pay that employers must give to their employees. Japan is one of the many countries with a statutory minimum wage. This helps to improve how part-time workers are treated.
The Central Minimum Wages Council in Japan is a labor ministry advisory panel. They often recommend a minimum wage hike for each of the country’s prefectures based on prices, local economic conditions, income, and several other factors. The prefectural wage councils then decide their minimum wage based on the recommendations.
In 2019, the Ministry of Labour’s advisory panel recommended an average minimum wage increase of between ¥26 ($0.24) and ¥28 ($0.26) per hour for each of the 47 prefectures. As a result, Tokyo and Kanagawa saw their minimum wage exceed ¥1,000 for the first time. Kagoshima, despite having the lowest minimum wage in 2018, had the largest hike of ¥29.
Tokyo currently has the highest minimum wage at ¥1,013 ($9.30) per hour, while Kagoshima and 14 other prefectures have the lowest minimum wages at ¥790 ($7.25) per hour.
If you check out the full ranking of the minimum wages in all 47 prefectures, it’s evident that there’s a major wage gap between urban and rural prefectures. This, together with the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas, has led to the migration of people to urban areas in search of quality jobs with better pay.
Ultimately, Japan’s average minimum wage in 2019 was raised to ¥901 ($8.27) per hour from the previous year’s value of ¥874 ($8.02)/hour. This 3.1% increase was in line with the consumption tax increase (from 8-10%) that went into effect in October 2019.
Average Salary in Tokyo
Tokyo is the largest and capital city of Japan. Given that Japan has one of the strongest economies in the world, it’s no surprise that its capital is one of the wealthiest cities across the globe. Tokyo is a major international finance center as it houses several of the largest insurance companies, credit unions, and investment banks, not to mention, it is home to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It also serves as headquarters to several multinational companies, including Fujitsu, Sony, Nikon, Honda, etc.
Needless to say, working in this city allows you to be part of the largest metropolitan economies in the world. Despite suffering the effects of the Great recession, the earthquake of 2011, and Japan’s recent recession, Tokyo’s economy remains strong and the powerhouse of the country.
More and more foreigners are relocating to Tokyo for different reasons. As Japan’s capital, it has a high standard of living and offers pretty high salaries. In fact, the average salary is Tokyo is the highest in the country at $84,095 a year, $7,003 per month, and $40.40 an hour. The average monthly net salary in Tokyo is among the highest in the world at around $2,950. This figure is comparable to other high-income cities such as London, Hong Kong, and Paris.
Tokyo’s economy is heavily diversified and has a strong presence in nearly all sectors. This economy relies on electronics, transportation, broadcasting, and publishing industries. But despite being an extremely wealthy city, Japan doesn’t have as many job opportunities for expatriates as other global city hubs. This is partly due to the frequent requirement of the Japanese language for most jobs.
Although there are good career opportunities for those who speak Japanese, there are also jobs that don’t require Japanese proficiency. This includes those who are skilled in areas with high demand such as finance, IT, and robotics. There’s also a high demand for English teachers.
Cost Of Living in Japan
Japan is known to have one of the highest costs of living in the world. The average household monthly expenditure is about $2,755 for Japan as a whole. The average cost of living of a single expat working here is between $835 and $1,033 per month (excluding rent or mortgage payments). Here are some of the expenses you should budget for:
Tokyo has the most expensive properties in Japan with a one-bedroom apartment or studio apartment costing an average of $787.70/month. This price drops to almost half in Osaka at $411/month, and even further in one of the most rural areas of the country: Hokkaido, where it’s just $297/month. Alternatively, you can buy a house at around $8,684/square meter in the city center and half the price in rural areas. Expats are not restricted from buying a property or getting mortgages in Japan. Be sure to consider credit unions and smaller banks for more flexible lending.
Food costs are a bit reasonable; plus, there are so many ways you can save on this expense. Expect your monthly food costs to be around $166 if you prepare most of your meals at home.
Japan has an extensive, safe, affordable, and reliable public transport system. A one-way ticket costs about $1.93, while a monthly travel pass will set you back around $91.74. There are also pretty good deals on cars. You can easily find a new five-seater for under $14,000. Gasoline costs about $1.31/litre.
In addition to these common expenditures for every household, you should also budget for personal care and clothing at $63, going out at $60, as well as internet and mobile phones at $75. The much you’ll spend on taxes, health insurance, and pension will depend on your salary. Note that this is simply a guideline as your exact costs will depend on several factors.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.