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What Is the Average Salary in Japan in 2019?

Which jobs in Japan offer the best salaries and what the future holds beyond the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

By 11 min read

The average annual salary in Japan is around ¥4.14 million, according to a survey by Japanese online job-search website doda. That’s about US$37,800. 

The survey is based on data collected from around 360,000 full-time company employees aged 20 to 65 who registered with doda’s (Japanese-language) agent service between September 2017 and August 2018. It looks at average annual earnings from a range of angles, including industry, job type, region, and experience.

All of these factors influence our actual incomes, but for an overview of the current state of play on salaries in Japan, let’s focus on average annual incomes by industry. Note that these figures are before tax.

General
Industry
Average
Annual
Salary
% Foreigners
in the
Industry
Average Monthly Salary by Seniority
Entry Level Experienced Manager Senior
IT / Communication ¥4,610,000
2.63%
¥311,000 ¥421,000 ¥517,000 ¥628,000
Internet / Advertising / Media ¥4,120,000 ¥291,000 ¥372,000 ¥443,000 ¥528,000
Services ¥3,760,000 5.12% ¥270,000 ¥342,000 ¥387,000 ¥439,000
Manufacturing ¥4,560,000 4.17% ¥305,000 ¥399,000 ¥469,000 ¥625,000
Medical ¥4,500,000 0.31% ¥292,000 ¥390,000 ¥475,000 ¥643,000
Finance ¥4,460,000 0.62% ¥307,000 ¥453,000 ¥495,000 ¥598,000
Construction / Real Estate ¥4,180,000 1.37% ¥300,000 ¥378,000 ¥425,000 ¥468,000
Retail / Food ¥3,550,000 3.13% ¥255,000 ¥324,000 ¥392,000 ¥452,000

IT jobs in Japan offer the highest salaries, especially for women

According to the survey, the highest average annual income of ¥4.61 million belonged to the IT and communications industry. It also had the highest average entry-level income per month of ¥311,000 and managerial level income of ¥517,000. So if you are looking to earn a high salary, IT is the way to go.

Doda said that looking at its data on a gender basis, IT and communication was on average the fifth-highest paying industry for men, but the top-earning industry for women. So if you’re a woman looking for a well-paying job in Japan, start your search in the IT industry.

…if you’re a woman looking for a well-paying job in Japan, start your search in the IT industry.

The highest-earning job in this sector was an IT consultant, who makes on average an annual ¥6.04 million. Web service engineers earn around ¥4.25 million, while web designers can expect about ¥3.57 million.

Compared to other industries, IT jobs for foreigners in Japan rank about midway in regard to the ratio of foreign workers. About 2.63% of the industry’s employees are non-Japanese.

Choosing the right sector pays off in manufacturing, the second highest paid industry in Japan

Not far behind, with an average yearly salary of ¥4.56 million was the manufacturing sector. A staple of the Japanese economy, manufacturing is also a relatively large employer of foreigners, accounting for 4.17% of industry workers.

The survey results suggested that within this industry, the earnings of specific sections are subject to some volatility. Doda said there was a rise of about ¥200,000 in annual earnings in the toiletry and paper and pulp industries this term, for example. That brought the average salary for the toiletries sector to ¥5.52 million, topping manufacturers of home appliances and mobile and network machinery, at ¥5.39 million, and comprehensive electrical machinery makers, at ¥5.36 million.

If you’re going to be selective about which sector of the manufacturing industry you want to work in, it would be best to consider the long-term fortunes and outlooks for those makers. The textile sector here, for example, had a relatively low average income of ¥3.76 million. But most manufacturing sectors offer better-than-average salaries, especially in technology-related products.

Find a job in medicine for long-term financial growth

Two traditionally high-earning industries come third in terms of salary in the Japanese job market: the medical industry and finance.

The average annual income for the medical industry, at ¥4.50 million, lagged behind those in the IT and manufacturing industries. However, in the long-term, medicine produced the highest monthly salary for a senior position, at ¥643,000. That topped the second-highest senior monthly income of ¥628,000 in the IT and communication sector. The senior wage for manufacturing was ¥625,000.

Within the medical industry, the sector with the highest average annual income was pharmaceutical manufacturers, with ¥6.11 million, followed by ¥5.70 million at manufacturers of diagnostic drugs and clinical examination machinery and reagents. These sectors are likely to continue to do well as Japan’s population ages further.

[the medical and finance] sectors are likely to continue to do well as Japan’s population ages further.

These figures suggest that working in a cross-sector of two well-paying industries will boost your earning potential.

The annual salary in pharmaceutical manufacturing was ¥6.11 million.

While you’re young, make money by working in finance

In the finance industry, the average annual salary was ¥4.46 million. According to doda, based on annual salary by occupational sector, investment banking jobs were the second highest earning—after lawyers—at ¥8.25 million.

If we look at average monthly earnings in the finance industry throughout a career, we see that entry-level salaries are a high ¥307,000, coming after the IT industry’s ¥311,000. For experienced workers in their 30s, finance had the highest average wage of ¥453,000, suggesting that this industry is a good place to make a lot of money while you’re young. Although wages slipped back behind IT again in the managerial years (¥495,000 versus ¥517,000), the earnings were still high.

Finance companies require the gamut of staff functions—IT systems engineers, sales people, human resources. So, to improve your salary, try shifting your skill set into the finance industry.

Doda said that finance roles were prevalent among the highest-earning specific jobs. If you are considering studying to enter a new field, finance may be a good subject. All industries need staff for their finance functions—an accountant in an IT company, or auditor at a manufacturing firm–and you might want to make the most of crossover in high-earning industries here, too, to try to boost your salary.

Unfortunately, opportunities for foreigners in finance and medicine are not plentiful—foreigners make up less than one percent of workers in each industry.

Unfortunately, opportunities for foreigners in finance and medicine are not plentiful—foreigners make up less than one percent of workers in each industry.

Interested in working in real estate in Japan? Try real estate finance

The average salary by industry then drops down to ¥4.18 million annually in construction and real estate. The top sub-section here is for real estate finance, which brings in ¥4.86 million on average. Foreigner participation in this industry rises to 1.37%.

For jobs in media—PR is the best choice

The next highest-paying industry is media, internet, and advertising, with an average annual salary of ¥4.12 million. The top sectors here are public relations and advertising agencies, with an annual ¥4.28 million. The percentage of foreigners in this industry comes to 2.63%.

The Japanese service industry has the highest rate of foreign participation

The service industry has the highest rate of foreign participation, 5.12%, but is one of the lowest-paying sectors. The average salary here was ¥3.76 million. The highest-earning sub-category was financial advisory services, at ¥5.61 million. Looking at specific occupations, human resource services pay ¥3.68 million on average annually, interpretation and translation jobs in Japan earn ¥3.52 million and marketing jobs in Japan make a nice ¥4.90 million.

Among hospitality and tourism jobs in Japan, hotel front desk staff on average earn ¥2.97 million, while travel agents and tour guides make ¥3.18 million annually, according to the doda survey.

How much does an English teacher make in Japan?

The traditional gateway job for foreigners coming to Japan, the annual average for teaching jobs was ¥3.21 million, which works out to about ¥267,500 a month.

Teaching Business English will offer you the best pay.

Within English teaching jobs here, assistant language teachers at public (and sometimes private) schools earn about ¥230,000 a month, while salaries for instructors at privately owned English conversation schools are around ¥275,000. Teachers of business English often earn a higher rate of pay per lesson, sometimes up to as much as ¥3,500 an hour.

Teachers of business English often earn a higher rate of pay per lesson…

For more information on teaching English in Japan, take a look at our Japan 101 section: Teaching English.

Jobs in the retail and food service industries are the worst paid in Japan

Last on the list is the retail and food service industry, where the annual average salary is ¥3.55 million. Foreigners make up 3.13% of this industry and that ratio may rise.

Among sales jobs in Japan, average annual pay at convenience stores is the highest, at ¥4.01 million. Supermarkets follow with ¥3.65 million, ahead of retail shops and department stores. Long term, though, senior monthly earnings at convenience stores are low, at ¥416,000, while at supermarkets they are firm at ¥476,000, and department stores reward long service with a relatively high ¥499,000 each month. On average, however, department stores’ annual salaries are at the low end of the retail industry at ¥3.43 million.

Restaurants on average pay better than izakaya pubs or bars, with an annual ¥3.53 million, compared to ¥3.46 million, and that gap continues over time, with senior monthly pay at an average ¥485,000 at restaurants and ¥388,000 at pubs and bars.

Specific Function
Average
Annual
Salary
Average Monthly Salary by Seniority
Entry Level Experienced Manager Senior
Teachers / Instructors ¥3,210,000 ¥241,000 ¥290,000 ¥316,000 ¥349,000
Human Resource Services ¥3,680,000 ¥275,000 ¥332,000 ¥375,000 ¥400,000
Translation / Interpretation ¥3,520,000 ¥250,000 ¥303,000 ¥320,000 ¥350,000
IT
IT Consultant ¥6,040,000 ¥376,000 ¥552,000 ¥678,000 ¥680,000
Web Engineer ¥4,250,000 ¥300,000 ¥405,000 ¥477,000 ¥543,000
Web Designer ¥3,570,000 ¥265,000 ¥315,000 ¥354,000 ~
Retail / Food
Convenience Store ¥4,010,000 ¥290,000 ¥360,000 ¥436,000 ¥416,000
Restaurant ¥3,530,000 ¥254,000 ¥327,000 ¥383,000 ¥485,000
Izakaya / Bar ¥3,460,000 ¥250,000 ¥316,000 ¥373,000 ¥388,000
Retail Shop ¥3,420,000 ¥246,000 ¥311,000 ¥382,000 ¥428,000
Supermarket ¥3,650,000 ¥262,000 ¥336,000 ¥396,000 ¥476,000
Department Store ¥3,430,000 ¥242,000 ¥298,000 ¥380,000 ¥499,000

There’s a new visa to allow more foreigners into manufacturing, service industries

The services and manufacturing industries are likely to continue to employ the highest rates of foreign workers due to a new type of working visa that started in April 2019 with the aim of combatting Japan’s labor shortage. The Specified Skilled Worker visa is open to foreigners with practical daily Japanese language skills and proven ability in one of 14 specified fields of industry. These include manufacturing, the hotel industry, building cleaning, and nursing care.

They also include the construction industry and food service, or restaurant industry, so foreign employment in these sectors will also likely increase. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, the government expects up to 345,150 foreigners to acquire the visa over the next five years, with the largest number of 60,000 workers expected to be in the nursing care business. The visa can be renewed to obtain a maximum stay of up to five years in total.

A second type of the specified skilled worker visa will be available for the construction and shipbuilding industries.

A second type of the specified skilled worker visa will be available for the construction and shipbuilding industries. This visa doesn’t require Japanese language skills and allows holders to bring in family members. With no limit on the number of renewals for this visa, it may open up the possibility for its holders to live in Japan permanently.

The immigration agency also said recently that it will expand the areas in which foreign graduates from Japanese universities are allowed to work under the Designated Activities status of residence to include full-time work at restaurants, retail shops, and factory production lines.

So what does this expected increase in workers mean for wages in these sectors? Assuming that this supply will meet the continuing demand caused by Japan’s aging population and low birthrate, it will likely prevent salaries from rising much. Alternatively, it should solidify the base wage in these industries, as part of the government’s measures to make the new visa a success is to require that its holders be paid as much as, or more than, their Japanese counterparts.

…part of the government’s measures to make the new visa a success is to require that its holders be paid as much as, or more than, their Japanese counterparts.

What will happen to salaries in Japan after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

From construction to translation and advertising, Japan is experiencing increased demand ahead of the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympic Games. So what happens when it’s over? Olympic-specific demand will end along with the Games, but could the end of that much-awaited event also be the catalyst that shifts the focus off of Japan as a travel destination? If it does, tourism-related salaries will surely stagnate.

As Japan’s domestic market shrinks, its companies are trying to expand their markets overseas, often through corporate tie-ups and mergers. Reflecting this, jobs involved in intellectual property rights and patents were high earners, doda said. Similarly, more companies are seeking the twin role of a translator/interpreter because they now need someone who can also interpret during video conferences with foreign partners. These trends look to continue, in line with Japanese demographics.

…more companies are seeking the twin role of a translator/interpreter because they now need someone who can also interpret during video conferences with foreign partners.

Doda also said that highly qualified professions were most prevalent among the highest-earning types of jobs. This included lawyers and auditors, and consultants in business process re-engineering (BPR), strategy and management. So if you’re looking for a big salary, consider seeking qualifications and experience in these areas. Together with your knowledge and experience of overseas markets as a foreigner, they would make you a valuable asset to global-oriented Japanese companies.

The prominent outlook for the domestic market is stagnation at best. Consequently, it will likely pay to work in an industry whose fortunes are not tied to those of the domestic market. Mind you, it is hard to say which direction the global market is headed.

Salary growth in Japan beyond 2019 does not look good

Just like the rest of the world, although Japanese companies are posting robust profits, their employees’ pay is languishing. Management cites worries in the economic outlook as the reason for their reluctance to boost salaries, and those concerns won’t be going away soon.

Small and mid-size firms say they are increasing pay to attract talent, but big companies have less motivation to increase salaries. They tend to act in unison on wage moves and also know that they are the preferred hirer among the majority of Japanese, who seek stable employment.

It’s not a rosy outlook for workers which is all the more reason to have a well-thought-out career strategy that boosts your value in the global market.

Best of luck, job seekers!

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