Working in Japan



Japan is a leader in Asia that is highly regarded for its military and economic power. For expats, the Land of the Rising Sun is incredibly appealing, but a word of caution: be prepared to work hard. 

Historically, Japan's immigration policies have been restrictive; however, social and economic factors have forced the country to embrace more open policies to attract foreign labour. During the past decade, over two million immigrants (permanent residents and short term residents) entered Japan, a number that is gradually increasing. With an employment rate of 93% and a total Nominal Gross Domestic Product of USD 5.106 trillion which is the third-largest in the world, it’s no doubt why Japan is one of the most ideal expat destinations in Asia. 

Top Jobs in Japan 

Japan's exceptional economic growth is driven by its banking sector, retailing industry, telecommunications, stock exchange and transportation. This country also encourages more medical professionals such as: 

  • Nurses
  • Physical therapists
  • Medical transcription experts 

There is also a high demand for educators. Teaching English as a second language is one of the government's top priorities, so jobs are relatively easy to come by. 

Part time and full time positions are available for both private and public schools. Initially, graduates go to Japan to teach English and whilst teaching, they study the native language to enable a step over to the corporate world. The JET Program is handled by Japanese embassies around the world. For expats who want to learn the language, there are plenty of Japanese courses available. The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which can be taken in Japan as well as in other countries, is the most recognized qualification.

"This is fairly straightforward though somewhat time-consuming. Working visas are sponsored by the company but unmarried spouses present a significant problem. There is usually a limit of three to six months they can stay. After that, you need to get married."- Jonathan Hewitt, Expat in Tokyo, Japan

Average Salary and Working Hours 

Japanese labour laws allow employees (with the exception of military, police officers, and fire-fighters) to join trade unions and are given the right to coordinate and bargain collectively. The government currently enforces a minimum wage of JPY 823 or USD 7.30 per hour, with recommendations from the National Personnel Authority and tripartite councils, but actual figures vary depending on the region and industry. 

The regular working week is 40 hours and is laid out in the local labour law (not applicable for small enterprises). Children under the age of 15 are prohibited to work. In Japan, if a holiday falls on a weekend, it is automatically observed on a Monday. Like any practices in other countries, all government offices and private entities are closed at weekends and on national holidays. The exception is for some shopping malls and restaurants. 

The Japanese Work Culture 

Generally speaking, the Japanese society is known for its ‘save face’ culture and this practice is deeply felt even in the work environment. Expats in this country should know that their local colleagues or superiors believe that turning down one’s request can cause embarrassment and loss of face that’s why they won’t do anything that will cause such humiliation. In other words, the Japanese don’t openly insult, criticise or bluntly refuse a request. 

Harmony is also a key value in the Japanese business setting and they put significant emphasis on maintaining harmonious relationships among fellow workers. Politeness, personal responsibility and the ability to function well with others are some of the characteristics that the Japanese admire. They also have the tendency to rely on non-verbal messages rather than spoken words. For example, when you see them frown, it means that they are disagreeing. Other expressions that foreign assignees that you need to look out for are tilting the head, scratching the back of the head and eyebrow as well as inhaling through clenched teeth.


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