{TokyoDev}

International Developers in Japan

2021 Survey Results

In November 2021, we asked 435 international software engineers living in Japan about their salary, working conditions, and technology used to better help you get an idea of what it's like working in Japan.

Takeaways

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Key Takeaways

Demographics

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Where in Japan do developers live?

84% of respondents lived in the Greater Tokyo Area (Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa).

❓ Where do you currently reside?
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Residency status

Compared to last year’s survey, the respondents that were permanent residents increased from 15 to 20%. This is perhaps explained by the border being virtually closed to new residents during 2021. Only 2,356 people entered Japan on the Engineer / Specialist in Humanities /International Services visa status between January and October 2021, compared to 43,880 people in the year of 2019.

❓ What is your residency status in Japan?
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Gender

90% of respondents identified as male.

❓ What is your gender?
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Professional software development experience

On average, respondents had 7.9 years of professional experience in software development.

❓ How many years of professional experience do you have in software development?
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Educational background

72% of respondents held a degree in computer science or a related subject.

❓ Have you completed any of the following professional qualifications?
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Language ability

Only 30% of respondents spoke Japanese at a fluent level or above.

❓ What is your language proficiency?

Work

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Employment status

96% of respondents were employed full-time.

❓ Which of the following best describes your employment status?
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Company type

66% of respondents worked at a company headquartered in Japan.

❓ Which of the following best describes your employer?
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Nationality of colleagues

88% of respondents were part of an engineering team where other international members were common.

Engineers

Non-Engineers

❓ What is the nationality of the other people you work with?
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Remote work

Through 2021, remote work remained the norm, with 88% of respondents working primarily remotely.

❓ In 2021, how often did you work remotely?
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Company size

Respondents at the beginning of their career tended to work for mid-sized companies: among respondents with less than 4 years of experience, 58% of them worked for a company with between 20 and 499 employees, whereas among those with 4 or more years, only 36% did.

❓ How many employees does your employer have (worldwide)?
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Language usage

While most respondents frequently used English with their colleagues, Japanese usage was across the board.

❓ What languages do you use with your colleagues?
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Overtime

41% of respondents never worked overtime in a typical month.

❓ In a typical month, how many hours of overtime do you work?
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Overtime by Japanese usage

Increased Japanese usage correlated with more overtime.

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Role

Full-stack, back-end, front-end developers made up 57% of respodents. Among coding bootcamp grads, that percentage rose to 81%.

❓ Which of these best describes your current role?
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Benefits

Flextime and a commuting allowance were offered by the vast majority of companies.

❓ Which of the following benefits does your employer offer?
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Most important benefit

Which benefit respondents valued the most varied quite signifigantly, though the largest number of respondents said the ability to work remotely was most important.

❓ Besides your salary, which benefit your employer offers is most important to you (if any)?

Tech

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Programming languages

JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and Python remained the most commonly used programming languages. TypeScript rose from sixth to fourth most popular language.

❓ What programming languages do you regularly use on your job?
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Web frameworks

React.js was by far the most commonly used frontend framework, while Ruby on Rails was the most commonly used backend framework.

❓ What web frameworks, if any, do you regularly use at your job?

Salary

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Salary

The median salary was ¥8.5 million per year, up ¥1 million from last year’s survey.

❓ What is your current total annual compensation (salary, bonuses, perks, and overtime pay, before taxes and deductions) in Japanese yen?
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Salary by experience

Salary quickly increased with experience, and among respondents with five to nine years of experience, 41% earned ¥10 million or more.

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Salary by experience and educational background

Whether someone had a formal education (such as a computer science degree), an unrelated degree, or had attended a coding bootcamp didn’t have an obvious correlation with their salary after accounting for experience.

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Salary by remote work

Respondents who worked fully remotely had a median salary of ¥9.5 million, compared to ¥6.5 million for those who didn’t.

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Salary by language usage

The more often a respondent used English with their colleagues, the better they were paid. While respondents who used Japanese frequently tended to be paid less than those who never used it, the contrast wasn’t as stark. Furthermore, people who frequently use English but never use Japanese tend to be compensated better than those who frequently use both languages.

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Salary by role

Back-end developers earned about ¥1.5 million more than those who selected front-end or full-stack roles, despite having a similar level of experience.

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Salary by programming languages

Developers who used Rust had the highest salary, while they had the third highest average number of years of experience, following C and Objective-C developers, indicating that the programming languages used on the job have some correlation with the salary.

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Salary by web frameworks

Respondents who used Spring were the best paid, despite being no more experienced than the average respondent. However, they also had below average satisfaction with their job.

Satisfaction

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Job satisfaction

Respondents reported how satisfied they were with their current job on a scale of one to ten. The median score was 8.

❓ How satisfied are you with your current job?
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Job Satisfaction by salary

While respondents with an annual salary under ¥8 million had a median satisfaction of 7, those earning more than that scored 8. There wasn’t an obvious correlation between experience and job satisfaction.

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Job satisfaction by web framework

Laravel developers were not only the least satisfied with their job, but also had the lowest salary.

Weekly emails of developer jobs in Japan

Get notified about jobs for English-speaking software developers in Japan. Most positions require no Japanese skills, and many are open to overseas applicants.

About the survey

The survey was conducted by Paul McMahon, the author of TokyoDev, a site dedicated to helping international developers start and grow their career in Japan. You can reach him on Twitter at @pwim or via email at paul@tokyodev.com.