Labor Law

Minimum wage and average salary in Japan

Learn about the minimum wage and salaries in Japan, including opportunities for international workers and the glaring gender wage gap.

minimum wage in japan
writer

Updated 15-5-2024

After moving to Japan (日本, Nihon/Nippon), and settling basics such as housing, banking, schools, and utilities, most expats will want to work in the country. Of course, this will mean trying to get a work visa, finding a job, and navigating the intricacies of Japanese business culture.

However, working expats will also need to understand how the minimum wage (最低賃金, saitei chingin) system in Japan works, what kinds of salaries to expect, and how to find recourse if their pay is unfair. To help you assess your wages, learn more about the following topics:

Minimum wage in Japan

Minimum wage in Japan was established by the Minimum Wage Law (Law 137) (最低賃金法, saitei chingin ho) of 15 April 1959. As such, the law sets a minimum wage depending on industry, job, and region that considers the cost of living. Since then, the government (政府, seifu) has reconsidered the minimum wage each year and changed it when appropriate.

The rates are set by the Minister of Health, Labour, & Welfare (厚生労働大臣, Kose Rodo Daijin) and the Directors of the Prefecture Labour Offices (都道府県労働局長, Todofuken Rodo Kyokucho) on the advice of the Central or Prefectural Minimum Wage Councils (中央/地方最低賃金審議会, Chuo/Chiho Saitei-chingin Shingi-kai).

Client having a hair cut at a salon
Photo: Maki Nakamura/Getty Images

Generally, average wages in Japan have been stagnant since 2000. But, that is set to change. In mid-2022, the responsible committee recommended a record 3.3% rise in the minimum wage in Japan, largely to combat increasing consumer prices.

As such, as of 1 April 2023, the minimum wage in the country is ¥960/hour. This covers basic salaries and things like annual leave, but does not cover overtime, tips, and transport, for example.

According to the OECD, the minimum wage in Japan is on par with countries like Korea, Poland, and Slovenia. Although it is well ahead of other countries such as the USA, Russia, Malta, Brazil, Portugal, Lithuania, Mexico, Greece, and Hungary, Japan still lags behind Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK.

Minimum wage in Japan: exclusions and variations

Exclusions to minimum wage in Japan

Although Japan issues a national minimum wage, there are certain variations and exclusions.

For example, each prefecture (or region) within Japan is able to set its own minimum wage that corresponds to the local cost of living. In addition, certain industries set their own minimum wage, which is usually higher than that set by the national government. As such, whichever minimum wage is higher will be the one that applies.

Part-time workers in Japan

Generally speaking, Japanese law enforces a principle of equal pay for equal work. The Law on the Improvement of Employment Management for Part-Time Workers (パート, pato) and Fixed-Term Contract Workers (有期雇用労働者, yuki koyo rodosha) specifically reduces the potential for inequalities, including in pay.

As a result, part-time workers should usually receive the same minimum wage as their full-time counterparts, but on a pro-rata basis that depends on how many hours they work.

Temporary workers in Japan

Because the country enforces no discrimination policies in employment, temporary workers (派遣社員, haken shain) are entitled to the minimum wage in Japan. This is as long as they have the same responsibilities and do the same work as regular employees (正社員, seishain).

The only real difference is that temporary workers will usually have fixed-term contracts (有期雇用, yuki koyo), while full-time employees will have indefinite contracts (無期雇用, muki koyo). 

Young people in Japan

All employees must receive the local minimum wage of their prefecture in Japan. Consequently, even young workers should get this. However, the types of jobs young people do will often differ from those that adults pursue in their professional careers. For example, students may work part time (アルバイト, arubaito) in cafés, restaurants, and convenience stores.

Students attending a job fair in Tokyo
Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Interns and apprentices in Japan

As in many other countries, it is possible to get paid and unpaid internships (インターンシップ, intanshippu) in Japan. Therefore, there is no official minimum wage in Japan for interns. Expats looking at internships in the country should note that most internships in Japan are not paid.

Variations by sector or region in Japan

Like salaries, the minimum wage in Japan varies slightly by region. Here are the current rates for different prefectures:

  • Aomori (青森): ¥853/hour
  • Chiba (千葉): ¥984/hour
  • Fukushima (福島): ¥858/hour
  • Hiroshima (広島): ¥930/hour
  • Hokkaido (北海道): ¥920/hour
  • Kanagawa (神奈川): ¥1,071/hour
  • Kyoto (京都): ¥968/hour
  • Nagasaki (長崎): ¥853/hour
  • Nara (奈良): ¥896/hour
  • Okinawa (沖縄): ¥853/hour
  • Osaka (大阪): ¥1,023/hour
  • Saitama (埼玉): ¥987/hour
  • Tochigi (栃木): ¥913/hour
  • Tokyo (東京): ¥1,072/hour
  • Yamagata (山形): ¥854/hour

What to do if you’re not being paid the minimum wage in Japan

Employers who do not pay the minimum wage in Japan can face penalties, and it is important to understand how this works. Generally, if found to be in breach of minimum wage laws, the employer may have to pay a fine of up to ¥500,000. To make a claim, you would need to go to the Prefecture Labour Office (都道府県労働局, Todofuken Rodo Kyoku).

Average salary in Japan

Despite the minimum wage in Japan, employees generally earn a far higher monthly salary. For example, the average employee in Japan makes around ¥4.61 million per year. Of course, salaries can differ greatly depending on the job, but also experience, location, and education level.

These salaries often include numerous benefits, including annual pay and sick leave, pension, and sometimes even housing and transport.

Average salary in Japan by sector

As is usual, salaries in Japan can also vary greatly by sector. This is because certain industries require more skills, experience, and education and therefore offer better pay. Below are some estimated salaries for roles across different sectors, which may be lower in practice depending on your experience and skill level:

  • Agriculture: ¥320,297/month
  • Arts & Culture: ¥358,103/month
  • Banking: ¥521,874/month
  • Construction & Real Estate: ¥433,980/month
  • Customer Support: ¥361,781/month
  • Education, Science & Research: ¥378,768/month
  • Human Resources: ¥487,596/month
  • Information Technology: ¥618,408/month
  • Journalism: ¥379,523/month
  • Law: ¥524,561/month
  • Marketing: ¥471,574/month
  • Service Industries: ¥313,532/month
  • Tourism and gastronomy: ¥316,813/month
Construction workers at the Canoe Slalom Course for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Average salary in Japan by region

As in most countries, salaries can also differ depending on their location within Japan. Generally, the areas which are more business-orientated and have more residents will have higher salaries. But, of course, this is offset by the somewhat higher cost of living in these areas.

Here are the estimated top salaries you can expect to earn in different cities in Japan, however, the average wages may be lower:

  • Fukuoka (福岡): ¥6,311,900/year
  • Hiroshima: ¥5,711,000/year
  • Kawasaki (川崎): ¥5,940,300/year
  • Kobe (神戸): ¥6,179,700/year
  • Kyoto: ¥6,058,300/year
  • Osaka: ¥6,660,500/year
  • Saitama: ¥5,833,500/year
  • Sendai (仙台): ¥5,591,900/year
  • Tokyo: ¥6,887,700/year
  • Yokohama: ¥6,768,400/year

Salary checker in Japan

Expats who want to know what kind of salary to expect while looking for jobs in Japan can refer to the following sites:

Gender pay gap in Japan

Because it is still largely a conservative, traditional society, Japan experiences significant gender disparities. This is especially true when it comes to salaries because women earn significantly less than men in the country.

Generally, the 2022 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report ranks Japan as 116 out of 146 countries with a score of just 0.650. Although this is largely due to female participation in Japanese politics, it is also because of women’s economic opportunities in the country.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (外務省, Gaimu Sho), the gender pay gap in Japan is 22.1% (2022), which places Japan at the bottom of the G7 countries, and 100th out of 146 countries for estimated earnings gap.

This puts it well behind most countries across the Americas, Europe, and Asia, as well as places like Namibia, South Africa, and Mongolia. However, Japan’s gender pay gap is still ahead of countries such as Nigeria, India, Oman, and Turkey.

Salaries and wages for international workers in Japan

Many internationals will earn more than the minimum wage in Japan. This is because many expats in Japan work as English teachers, high-level hospitality staff, IT professionals, and engineers. However, highly skilled foreign workers in sectors that require certain experience and training can earn even more.

English language teacher with primary school students in Japan

For example, recruitment jobs can pay around ¥4.05 million/year, while doctors could earn between ¥18.2 million/year and ¥27.6 million/year. Similarly, foreign finance professionals stand to earn up to ¥12.8 million/year while lawyers could earn up to ¥18.4 million/year.

What to do if your salary is too low in Japan

Japan has several laws that protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. For example:

  • The Law on the Comprehensive Promotion of Labor Measures and Stabilization of Employment of Employees and Enrichment of their Work Lives (雇用対策法, koyo taisaku ho) states that employees cannot discriminate because of age during the recruitment process.
  • The Law Concerning the Stability of Employment of the Elderly (高年齢者雇用安定法, konenrei-sha koyo antei ho) deals with non-discrimination against seniors.
  • The Labor Standards Law (労働基準法, rodo kijun ho) prohibits discrimination because of nationality, race, religion, and social status, among other things.
  • The Law on Security Equal Opportunity and Treatment between Men and Women in Employment (男女雇用機会均等法, danjo koyo-kikai kinto-ho) regulations discrimination due to gender.

As such, it is technically illegal for employees to pay, for example, a woman less than a man for doing the same job.

Because of the non-discrimination principles that the Japanese law mandates for the country’s workforce, employees who face discrimination have certain options for recourse. For example, they can file a civil lawsuit against their employer, or apply to the labor tribunal for a hearing. The employee can ask the courts to:

  • Void the discriminatory treatment
  • Order the employer to reinstate the employee
  • Or get the employer to pay compensation.

Useful resources