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International Developers in Japan

2022 Survey Results

In October 2022, we asked 558 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 were respondents from?

This survey was conducted in English. Despite this, the respondents were incredibly diverse, representing 72 different countries. The top three nationalities were American (21%), French (8%), and British (7%).

❓ What is your nationality?
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Nationality correlated with salary

Respondents’ nationalities correlated with their salary, with those from Oceania having the highest median compensation, while those from North America had the highest 75th percentile salary. The disparity in salaries extended across experience levels.

Salary by nationality and years of experience

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Where do respondents live?

85% of respondents lived in the Greater Tokyo Area (Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa).

❓ Where do you currently reside?
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Residency status

59% of respondents had a residency status tied to their employer (engineer, highly skilled foreign professional, or investor / business manager).

❓ What is your residency status in Japan?
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Gender

The overwhelming majority of respondents described themselves as male. While we had respondents who identify as neither male or female, we didn’t get enough responses to further segment their data while maintaining the anonymity of the individuals.

❓ Which of the following describe you, if any?
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Women had lower compensation then men

Women tended to be less experienced than men, having a mean of 5 years experience compared to 8 years for men, partially explaining the difference in compensation. However, even when comparing the genders across similar experience levels, this gap in pay remained.

Men were also more likely then women to have a high paying role: while 21% of men had a role that was among the top five highest paying, only 4% of women did.

Overall

Salary by gender and years of experience

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Lower compensation for women drove lower overall job satisfaction

Women were less satisfied with their job than men, with a median overall satisfaction score of 7 compared to 8 for men. This seems driven by their lower compensation, as the median satisfaction of their compensation was 6 compared to 7 for men, while other measures all had a median of 8.

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Age

79% of respondents were between 25 and 39 years of age.

❓ What is your age?
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Professional software development experience

The median respondent had 7 years of professional software development experience, up one year from 2021’s survey.

❓ How many years of professional experience do you have in software development?
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Salary by experience

Compared with the previous year, median salary increased across experience levels, the only exception being respondents with 4 - 7 years of experience, for whom it remained unchanged.

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Years lived in Japan

Respondents lived in Japan for a median of 5 years.

❓ How many years have you lived in Japan?
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The majority of respondents have not spent their entire career in Japan

59% of respondents had more years of professional software development experience than years lived in Japan, indicating that they have also worked abroad.

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Educational background

88% of respondents with some sort of professional qualification held a degree in computer science or a related subject.

❓ Have you completed any of the following professional qualifications?
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Educational background doesn't significantly impact salary

While respondents who had attended a coding bootcamp had the lowest compensation, this appears to be because they have a median of only 2 years of professional experience. Overall, after adjusting for professional experience, educational background did not appear to have a significant effect on salary.

Salary by educational background and experience

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Language ability

Only 28% of respondents spoke Japanese at a fluent level or above.

❓ What is your language proficiency?
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Lower Japanese ability correlated with more professional experience

With the exception of respondents who didn’t have any Japanese ability or who were native speakers, lower Japanese ability correlated with more years of professional software development experience.

Years of experience by Japanese ability

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Job

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Employment status

Only 0.5% of respondents were unemployed, down from 2% in 2021.

❓ Which of the following best describes your employment status?
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Job search status

Respondents who were actively looking for a new job had a median salary of ¥6.5 million, whereas for those who weren’t looking, it was ¥9.5 million. Part of the difference could be explained by those actively looking having a median of 5 years of professional experience, whereas those who weren’t had 7 years.

❓ Are you currently searching for a new job?
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How people found their jobs

34% of respondents found their job via a recruiter (internal or external).

❓ How did you find your current job?
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Role

74% of respondents had a role with a back-end, front-end, or full-stack component to it.

❓ Which of the following describes your current job? Please select all that apply.
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Executives and engineering managers best paid, but also most experienced

Senior executives and engineering managers were the best paying roles, but respondents were also relatively experienced.

The designer role stood out as being particularly poorly compensated as it had the lowest median pay despite respondents having above average experience.

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Years of experience by role

Respondents with the role Developer, QA or test had the widest range of professional experience, with the 25th percentile having 3 years while the 75th percentile had 22.5 years.

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Language usage

Japanese language usage correlated with Japanese ability, with native / bi-lingual speakers using it 80% of the time, whereas those with conversational abilities used it only 22% of the time.

❓ What languages do you use with your colleagues?
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Years at current employer

The median number of years at the current employer was 2.

❓ How many years have you been employed by your current employer?

Employer

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Employer type

63% of respondents worked at a company headquartered in Japan.

❓ Which of the following best describes your employer?
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International subsidiaries pay significantly better than domestically headquartered companies

The type of employer had a significant effect on compensation. While the compensation at companies headquartered in Japan remained stagnant, with a median of ¥7.5 million. Respondents working at an international subsidiary earned a median ¥14.5 million, up from ¥11.5 million the year before, significantly increasing the divide between those working for purely domestic employers.

This difference in compensation was found across experience levels, and the gap became more pronounced with more experienced respondents.

Salary by employer type and experience

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Employer industry

SaaS, Finance, and E-Commerce were the most common industries.

❓ What industry or business domain is your current employer in?
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Developers working in the HR industry best compensated

Developers working for companies in the human resources, blockchain, and advertising industries were the best paid.

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Employer size

39% of respondents worked at employers with 20 to 499 employees.

❓ How many employees does your employer have (worldwide)?
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Nationality of colleagues

Engineering teams tended to be highly international, whereas it wasn’t uncommon for non-engineers to be mostly Japanese.

Engineers

Non-Engineers

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

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Working Conditions

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Salary

Developer salaries continued to increase. The median salary was ¥9.5 million per year, up ¥1 million from last year’s survey. This may partially be explained by respondents tending to be more experienced than the previous year.

Respondents earning ¥10 million per year or over increased from 35% of respondents in 2021 to 42% in 2022.

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

70% of respondents either worked at a company that worked fully remotely, or who gave employees the option of working completely remotely. Only 4% of respondents were required to exclusively work from an office.

❓ What best describes your employer's remote work policy?
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Hours worked in a typical week

55% of respondents worked 40 hours in a typical week, and only 26% of respondents reported working over 40 hours.

❓ In a typical week, how many hours do you work?
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Days worked in a typical week

97% of permanent employees worked a five-day work week.

❓ In a typical week, how many days do you work?
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Paid leave policy

50% of respondents reported they received the legal minimum for leave: 10 days after 6 months, increasing by 1 day per year of service, to a maximum of 20 days.

❓ How does your employer grant paid leave?
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Additional types of leave

Having national holidays off is not guaranteed under Japanese law, but 97% of respondents did receive them off.

❓ In addition to your normal paid leave, which of the following does your employer offer?
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How comfortable are you with asking for time off?

While most respondents said they were comfortable with asking for time off, perhaps this question was too vague to give meaningful data, as someone may be comfortable with asking for a day off while not being comfortable with asking for two weeks.

❓ How comfortable are you with asking for time off?

Satisfaction

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Satisfaction

Respondents reported how satisfied they were with their current job on a scale of one to ten. The median score was 8 for all measures of satisfaction we asked for, with the exception of compensation, which had a median score of 7.

Of all the measures of satisfaction, the highest percentage were completely satisfied with their colleagues, at 24%.

❓ Overall, how satisfied are you with your job? How satisfied are you with your compensation? How satisfied are you with the management of your current employer? How satisfied are you with the work itself? How satisfied are you with your colleagues?
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Respondents making under ¥6 million less satisfied with their job

Respondents with a higher compensation scored themselves as being overall more satisfied with their job.

Unsurprisingly, the respondents satisfaction with their compensation was highly correlated with the compensation itself. While respondents with a compensation under ¥4 million had a median compensation satisfaction of 5, respondents earning over ¥16 million had a median of 9.

The weakest correlation was with colleague satisfaction, with even respondents making under ¥4 million per year having a median colleague satisfaction of 8.

Satisfaction by salary

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How employer could improve job satisfaction

53% of respondents said their job satisfaction could be improved by increasing compensation. Among respondents who rated their satisfaction with compensation as 10 out 10, respondents were looking for more interesting or higher impact work.

❓ What could your employer do to improve your job satisfaction?

Tech

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Programming languages

Python usage increased by 4% from last year, making it the second most popular programming language. Rust usage also notably increased, from 3% to 6%.

❓ Which programming languages do you regularly use on your job?
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Databases

75% of respondents used PostgreSQL or MySQL (or both) as a database.

❓ Which databases do you regularly use at your job?
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Web frameworks

React.js solidified its lead over Vue.js, increasing its share from 48% last year to 57% this year.

❓ Which web frameworks do you regularly use at your job?
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Other frameworks and libraries

.NET appears to be considerably less popular in Japan than internationally. While StackOverflow’s 2022 developer survey reported 35% of respondents used it, our survey found only 15% used it.

❓ Which other frameworks and libraries do you regularly use at your job?
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Developer tools

With 75% of respondents using Docker, it was by far the most popular tool.

❓ Which developer tools do you regularly use at your job?
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Developer environments

Visual Studio Code was respondents’ preferred IDE.

❓ Which developer environments do you regularly use at your job?
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Salary by technology

Although respondents using different technologies were paid differently, this correlation seemed likely caused by their different levels of professional experience.

However, there were some standouts. Objective-C respondents were amongst the most experienced, but worst compensated, and Flutter developers were amongst the best paid, despite having relatively low experience.

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Years of experience by technology

Laravel was the technology with the lowest median years of experience.

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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.