tokyodev forum

Changing jobs in Japan

So, I’m currently living in Japan (for almost 2 months) as a Japanese Language student with 6 months visa.

I was offered a job offer to work as developer for a Japanese company that has a lot of foreigner devs working for them. The thing is I feel the salary is lower than what I expected (I have over 5 years of experience in my country, but my Japanese level is a little bit over N3).

So I was thinking about getting the job for the change of visa, improve my Japanese and Japanese company experience, then if after 1 year my salary doesn’t get better, look for different jobs.

I know changing jobs to soon is look down upon in japan, is it the same for tech jobs? If I work in this company for only 1 year, will I be able to get other jobs?

Or maybe I should try to get a better job as my first job?

I still have 4 months of visa left.

Thanks in advance

While Japanese companies have traditionally offered lifetime employment, and so people would rarely willingly change jobs, that’s changing. The market for software developers is at the forefront of this change, and so it isn’t rare at all for people to change jobs, with it not being uncommon even for Japanese developers to change every couple of years.

From talking with companies that bring foreign developers to Japan, they view it as a success if someone stays at least two years. So probably the company would be disappointed if you left after only a year. At the same time though, if they aren’t paying you at a market rate, that’s on them.

I wouldn’t worry about looking for a new job after only a year of employment negatively effecting your chances of future employment. Someone who’s employed as a developer in Japan with a valid visa is a lot more attractive than someone who’s on a student visa, and so I’d suspect it will be easier to find job than looking now.

While being underpaid is one valid concern, I’d personally be more concerned with the working conditions of the company itself. If it turns out to be a bad place to be a developer, staying even one year might be challenging.

If the salary is your only concern, you might talk with the company about it. You could try to negotiate for a higher salary now, and also discuss how the company gives raises, so you at least know if it would even be theoretically possible to reach your target within a year.

As for waiting to find a better job, it’s hard to say what’s the correct path. That you’ve already got a job offer only a couple months is a good sign, and it will probably be possible to get more. On the other hand, it’s impossible to say for sure, and if you’ve already been aggressively trying to get hired and this is the only offer, you might not manage to land something else in time. What’s more, even if the salary isn’t great at that company, at least you are earning some money, instead of living off your savings for another four months.

One other thing to be aware of is that companies and recruiters will put intense pressure on you to reveal your current salary. Right now, you have an easy out, as you haven’t worked as a developer in Japan, but it will be harder once you have your first job here. Japanese candidates will typically reveal this information, and so while it is theoretically possible to not reveal it, you might have external recruiters who refuse to work with you unless you do disclose it for instance. Once you do reveal your salary, that will be used as a reference point for any future offer, meaning it may be easy to get a 20% to 30% better offer, but harder to get one that is double your current salary. So if you do reveal your salary when hunting for a job in the future, holding out for a better salary now could theoretically mean a better future salary. As long as you can avoid revealing your salary in future negotiations though, this isn’t a concern though.

@pwim Thank you so much for the detailed answer.

You the nail right in the head… other than be worried about how much I will be making now, what worries me the most is that I will set the bar low for my next jobs. I do feel that some companies take advantage of the fact you need a new visa for them to offer you lower salaries, plus this company was a direct hire position, without a middle man it feels harder to negotiate things.

So yeah, I would say I have been aggresively trying to get a job, and so far this one offer is the first and next week I have the final interview for a different position that pays at least the minimum I was expecting to get.

So if that one doesn’t work out I think I will get the “underpaid” position and try to work it out for 1 year, and if they don’t give me a good enough raise I can start looking for other jobs. I will also see if they can negotiate the current offer right now, but I won’t be to aggressive about it 'cause my number 1 priority is getting the change of visa!

Thank you again!

So true.

Wow, I never knew you can actually refuse to reveal your salary. For me I always revealed it before hand, because in the end you have to submit your previous years income (for tax) and it will be revealed anyway ? Is there a way to avoid this ?

Yes, this is true as well, your initial salary will become a basis for all your future salaries. In my case though, I managed to double my salary after working a year in my initial job. It was because my initial salary was very low though :slight_smile: My second jobs salary was still not very high. After that I only managed to increase it for %15-%20 per move.

Did you double your salary in the same company and then went to a different one? I was thinking that after 1 year in the company they will probably give me some kind of raise, and I’ll have a renewed visa, so with those 2 I could have a better base salary to disclosure in the other interviews.

What? Is it mandatory to submit your previous income for your new company? I didn’t know that was a thing…

I went to a different one. Basically the company was going bust and they were in no position to raise my salary even if I asked for it.

You really should confirm this before joining. Ask them if they have employee evaluations, and if there is possibility for a salary raise after joining. In my experience, raises within the company is usually minimal and fixed. Like maybe 1-2%. Unless you do something really significant which brings the company extra revenue. In some places, its not even a thing.

I am not sure about this, but AFAIK, you don’t have any obligation to submit this, but they can learn about it from your past tax payments etc if they really want to. And they are really insistent on knowing this, if you refuse it is big minus points. Thinking from their perspective, knowing that someone worked for X salary for Y years is an important go sign for them.

Hmm, I checked up a little about this. Basically when you are moving jobs, you need to get a witholding slip from your previous company, and submit it to the new one. Name of the document is 源泉徴収票.

They use this to calculate your pension/social insurance etc payments. It lists all payments done by your previous company to you and to the government. I am not sure if you can withhold this (not submit to the new company) and do all the pension etc payments by yourself.

Yes, I talked about it to them and they said that there would be employees evaluation after a while… but I’m not really sure how much that would cover as a raise. My plan is that if I get this job I also keep developing applications for my portfolio and then after a year if my salary is still low I start looking for different jobs until I find one that is willing to pay what I would like to get.

Unfortunately the fact that I need to change my visa and that I have a time limit for that makes me worry that if I don’t get this opportunity I might not get any at all. And companies do take advantage on that, unfortunately.

I have two jobs that may make an offer before I sign the documents with this one company, so there are still chances I get something else… maybe.

Thank you for the insights, it’s always good to hear from people that had similar experiences in the past

You are welcome ! I hope you find a position that satisfies your expectations soon. Your plan sounds solid, with a valid visa and a portfolio, you are bound to get chances after a while even if you are not happy with the initial company.

Regarding evaluations, let me tell you a funny anecdote. In my previous company, we had bi annual evaluations, and these were graded from A to F. Basically, if you were doing your duties, and creating no trouble, you would get a C. And this would mean a minimal raise to your salary (It amounts to like 3,500 yen on monthly salary or something like that :slight_smile: ) So it was kind of funny. Basically everybody gets a C evaluation. To get a B, you should do some outstanding work and increase income/new channels/recognition for the company. If you get a B, you get a 7000-8000 yen raise on monthly salary :slight_smile: . To get a D, you should be falling back on your assigned duties, and creating problems in the company. To get a F, you should do something really stupid, like set the company on fire or something :slight_smile: . When I asked how could I get an A, they told me I should get a Nobel prize or create a world wide recognised framework or something (Rails was mentioned :slight_smile: ). They told me no one ever got an A or F in company history.

So basically, they try hard to keep everyone on a projected salary raise, which is usually really minimal. It kind of makes sense because inflation is not present in Japan, and accounting is planning to give you this salary until you get 65. If somebody gets a quick raise, it raises many eyebrows in all circles.

From a negotiation perspective, there’s a big difference between revealing your previous salary before they make you an offer, and after you start working.

Typically full time employees in Japan don’t file taxes themselves, but do so through 年末調整 (year end tax adjustment), which is done by the company. I know you can opt out of having the company do that though, as you may need to file taxes yourself if you have investments, extra income, etc.

I think if the company doesn’t know your previous salary, they also need to withhold taxes based on only your current salary, so if you’ve gotten a raise when you switch jobs, this could mean you’re paying more tax then is necessary (but you can get this back by filing a tax return).

Again though, once you’ve already received the offer, there’s not much reason to withhold this information.

Before you’re hired though, there’s absolutely no reason why a company needs to know your current salary. They want to know it, because it makes it easier for them to come up with the lowest offer they think you’ll accept.

For instance, if their budget for hiring a senior developer is 10 million a year, but your current salary is only 4 million, they might offer you 8 million. But if you had exactly the same skills, but a salary of 8 million, they offer you 10 million instead.

If you avoid revealing your current or desired salary, the company is forced to make an offer based on what you’re actually worth to them. That is why articles like Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued and Salary negotiation for software developers, engineers, and designers say you should never reveal your current salary.

I don’t personally have experience applying that technique though, as I only ever got hired for one job in Japan, which was straight out of university, and they never asked about compensation, rather they just made me an offer (and at the time, it didn’t even occur to me to try to negotiate it). Since then, I’ve been running my own company. If I was ever to seek employment again though, I would employ it, and I think I’m personally in a senior enough position that it could work.

The closest I’ve come is encouraging my Japanese wife to use the strategy. With external recruiters, most told her flat out that they couldn’t proceed without her revealing her current salary, as they needed it to fill in a form they had (seems like a stupid excuse to me). One went as far as saying she could not reveal it for now, but when she went in for an interview she had to. Another said if she revealed it to the recruiter, the recruiter wouldn’t pass it on to the company, but did in the end. When applying directly to a company without using a recruiter, she got further without revealing it, telling them she wanted to be compensated based on her value to them, rather than her current salary. In the final interview though, they asked her point blank about it and she caved.

If you’re applying to a larger Japanese company, you might have an issue if you don’t reveal your salary. I’ve seen some companies that require you to enter your current salary to even apply via their website. Because Japanese people will just do as they’re told, if you refuse, they may not even consider you. But I think even with companies like this, there isn’t any harm in seeing how far you can get without revealing it.

If you’re applying to a startup though, I think you’re much more likely to be able to get an offer without revealing your salary. Sure, they’ll still push you on it, and say it’s how things are done in Japan, but if they’re really interested in you otherwise, I can’t see them not making an offer solely because of you not revealing your salary.