Working and Employment in Japan for Foreigners

Blurred by motion, a group of businessmen in suits move through an underground walkway.

Businessmen head to work in Tokyo. Photo © Banalities, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Employment in Japan has shifted significantly from the days when major kaisha (companies) guaranteed lifetime employment to young (male) college graduates with promotion based on seniority. Today half of youth in their 20’s work part-time (often by choice) or in temporary jobs. The unemployment rate is a low 4.1 percent; however one-third of employees are contract workers (haken) without benefits.

Some of the biggest growth industries in Japan are finance, insurance, communications, scientific research, professional, and government services.A combination of low birth rate and long life span means that 23% of Japanese are now 65 or older. As a result, job opportunities in the medical, health and welfare fields are increasing. According to Amya Miller, who’s been volunteering as a relief worker in the Tohoku region since 2011, many Japanese youth “don’t want to work in service-industry-type jobs, [so] healthcare workers in rojin-homes (nursing homes) are often Brazilian, Thai, Malaysian.”

Some of the biggest growth industries in Japan are finance, insurance, communications, scientific research, professional, and government services. Also growing is IT, robotics and sensors, and earthquake-proof building technology. Makers of electronic components, autos, and machinery have expanded into Asia and the global market. Working for a Japanese company overseas could potentially lead to an opportunity in Japan.

Where should you look for employment in Japan? To apply for a job, you will need an appropriate working visa from a Japanese consulate in your country. A Japanese or international driver’s license may also be required. English teaching jobs are sometimes used as a stepping stone to further opportunities. You could teach English or another foreign language from kindergarten to the university level, depending upon your qualifications. A teaching certificate or graduate degree is an advantage. If you have technical skills,  IT related positions are in demand. The Japan Times and general websites have classified listings.

Networking is most important. “You have to know someone who will go to bat for you in order to get anything that pays well that’s also considered a ‘good’ job,” Amya advises. Strong Japanese language skills will add to the satisfaction of living in Japan.

Japan is safe, clean, with efficient public transport systems. Living in a different culture and forming friendships can be highly satisfying. After two and a half years Amya reflects, “The fact I have made a direct impact on the lives of those affected is incredibly humbling and is what keeps me here. That I have access to children, and that at least some of them will remember the foreign obachan (auntie) who came and played with them in the years after the disaster–this is really all I need.” Follow Amya at her blog The New Japan.

Leave a Reply