Overwork hour as a new graduate web developer

Hi everyone,

I’m confused on the fact of overwork in Japan after interviewing with some companies. One company sent me an offer saying “45h overwork pension included”. Does that mean I have to overwork 45h a month? Will my salary get deducted if I don’t work 45h more than my normal working?
Also I found overwork in medium tech company is also serious. One of them(around 600 staffs) told me their average overwork time is 60h another(around 300 staffs) told me 50h. A manager from that company even told me “You’re supposed to come back at 9 pm every day since you’re new graduate”. I used to think big companies already have a product which is growing steadily, it’s unnatural to ask for its employee to overwork every day. I heard of Japanese traditional working culture such as taking long hours as virtue. Is it still common in tech company? Are tech companies in japan inefficient? What will happen if I come back from work on time every day? Should I go directly to mid-career recruiting rather than new graduate recruiting since they expect new graduate to work long hours.

Hi Elena,

Japanese companies are required to pay for overtime, so any overtime work will be on top of the base salary. (Once you earn over a certain amount then the rules change). The problem is undeclared (therefore unpaid) overtime or “service zangyo”. There is a crackdown on this at some companies due to government pressure but I suspect enforcement varies significantly. At our company we have a app that tracks log-in/log-out time and it should mach the time declared in the monthly timesheet. Anywhere else but Japan this would be to ensure that more hours were not claimed than actually “worked”. Since it is Japan it is for the reverse, to try to stop so called “service zangyo.”

Those overtime figures do not sound unusual to me. We now have a company limit of 45h / month which will be reduced to 35h next year, but I suspect that is unusual. The government has talked about mandating limits but introduction has been delayed.

Japanese companies, including tech companies, are known for their inefficiency. Working long hours is definitely part of the culture. It may be changing very slowly, but is probably still the norm in many places. I don’t think this just applies to new graduates. This will obviously vary from company to company,

When I first came to Japan, I worked at a company with X hours of overtime included. However, I only remember a couple of occasions where I did overtime, and this was when there were critical issues with the production servers.

I know other people did work more overtime (especially the Japanese employees). I didn’t feel my lack of overtime held me back, and I did get a 25% raise after my first year. In the end, it seemed for that company resulted mattered more than a perception of effort.

I’ve also done consulting work with other startup companies that don’t encourage their employees to do overtime, so they do exist.

I also know a lot of companies will have employees work lots of overtime, regardless of seniority. Japanese society puts an emphasis on team over individual. It also is more hierarchical. So unless the company strictly enforces no overtime, things seem to slip towards everyone doing lots, as no one wants to be the first to leave, nor tell their boss they need to push back a deadline because they don’t have enough time.

It really depends on the company’s culture. If it has a culture of overtime, most people will work overtime regardless of their experience.

You could try taking the attitude that you won’t do overtime, despite the company having a culture of it. You won’t have your salary docked for not working overtime, but you may be passed up for promotion, face managers who scold you, be given bad assignments, and otherwise be treated badly.

Talking to the company is the best way to go. As you’ve seen, companies are usually pretty upfront about what the culture of overtime is like. If the prospect of working long hours doesn’t match you, I’d suggest you keep looking till you find a company that does match you.

“45h overwork pension included”

This means your base salary already includes amount for 45h-worth of overwork. So company will not pay any extra as long as your overtime is below 45h/month. OTOH, your salary will not be deducted also, even if you do not do any overtime.

I believe this kind of agreement is fairly common. I have experience working in both Japanese company and non-JP subsidiary, but both has similar rules.

While the basic rule (law) is that employee must pay for its overtime, there’s an extra clause in the law that allows this exception (google by “36 agreement” or “article 36”) if and only if employee representative agrees with its employer.

Regarding the overtime itself, it’s not that JP companies are inefficient. It just depends by company, not by nationality. Being said that, my general impression is that JP companies are simply underpowered, meaning there will be more work assigned to each employee. Hence the overwork.

Some social researchers analyze that this comes from relatively-strict law operation which essentially forbids company from doing a layoff. This means hiring wrong person is a costly/risky business, and so JP companies tries to operate in following ways:

  • Try not to hire as possible
  • If they must, try operating by hiring short-term staffs “repeatedly”, who are not protected by above law by definition.
  • Try to make each employee/staff multi-skilled as possible
  • Try to fill the void by overtime of existing employees/staffs

Based on my own analysis after working for several companies of both JP and non-JP origin, I agree with above analysis.

Good luck working in Japan!