In October 2023, I conducted a survey of international developers living in Japan. The results are now live, please check them out!
This year’s survey had a total of 713 respondents, up 28% from last year’s survey. This is an amazing number to me, as while it’s hard to say how many English-speaking international software developers live in Japan, I’d wager it is in the low tens of thousands, meaning our survey got at least 5% of them to respond.
Median compensation was down
The median compensation of respondents was ¥8.5 million per year, down ¥1 million from last year’s survey.
One factor may be that respondents tended to be less experienced than the previous year, having a median of 5 years professional experience, compared to last year’s median of 7 years.
Another factor may be that there was a slight shift in the kind of companies respondents were working for. While in 2022, 26% of respondents worked for the Japanese subsidiary of an international company, that dropped to 22% in this year’s survey. While this may not seem a significant difference, we also found that respondents working for such a subsidiary had a 73% higher median income than those working for a Japanese headquartered company.
Higher unemployment and more job seekers
We conducted our 2022 survey just before the US tech market started to crash. While we haven’t seen the same degree of mass layoffs and hiring freezes in Japan, it has gotten a lot more competitive, particularly if you’re looking for positions that don’t require strong Japanese skills.
This increased competition was reflected in our results. 2.6% of respondents were unemployed, up from 0.5% in 2022, and 19% of respondents were actively looking for a job, up from 11% last year.
Remote work on the decline
With the COVID pandemic, tech companies in Japan took a radical shift towards remote work, with it going from basically unheard of to almost universal. However, we’re seeing a move back towards the office.
While 70% of respondents could work fully remotely in 2022, that dropped to 59% in this year’s results. Furthermore, 9% of respondents were required to exclusively work from an office, up from 4% last year.
Negotiating salary is more difficult with Japanese companies
Respondents who worked for a subsidiary of an international company were more likely to be successful at negotiation. 36.6% of respondents working for an international subsidiary reported that they successfully negotiated, whereas 27.7% of those working for a Japan headquartered company did. For both company types, about 50% of respondents reported they didn’t even attempt to negotiate.
Women more likely to start a developer career in Japan
Irrespective of gender, respondents had lived in Japan for a median of 5 years. While male respondents had a median of 8 years professional experience, female respondents had a median of 2 years. This implies that many of our male respondents started their developer career abroad, and then came to Japan after picking up some experience, whereas many female respondents came to Japan first, and then transitioned into software development.
A driver of women entering software development appears to be coding bootcamps. While 11.6% male of respondents had graduated from a coding bootcamp, 35.5% of female respondents did.
Plus so much more
Not only are there many more insights to be found in the full survey results, we’ve also added the ability for you to create your own custom charts, allowing you to explore the data further. So please dive in and take a look!