What do Entry Level Jobs Pay?
Perhaps it was a New Year's resolution to finally make the move to
work and live in Japan. It is difficult to know exactly what to
expect and be sure that you can get enough work to cover your
costs. I repeat a previous article this week with some tips for
landing a job for those recently arrived, or considering making the
move very soon.
In a tight labor market, it's the newly arrived people who feel the
pinch first. I frequently get mail from people who've just landed in
Japan and can't find a job, they're running low on funds and are
starting to get desperate. Almost always, the writers are here
because of a Japanese spouse or partner, and they were planning to
come regardless of whether they could get a job first.
If you're a native English speaker and have a degree, there are
always English teaching and editing/writing/translating jobs.
Otherwise, the main opportunities are in manual labor or
commission-based sales and consulting. What is the difference
between these three directions?
Looking at informal English teaching (versus getting a job in a
proper school or university) first, generally you work in the
evenings and thus have scope to hold down a second job or to
pursue training for an alternative career. You can expect a salary of
JPY250,000-350,000 per month for about 30 hours a week. Use the
remaining time to either go learn Japanese, or work in the
mornings as an intern somewhere. Interning for another 20 hours a
week should allow you to pick up another JPY100,000 or so a
Manual labor is a tough route to go, especially now that so many
able-bodied Japanese are out of work. Nevertheless, the
Immigration Bureau says that there are about 350,000 legal
foreign factory workers in Japan - so obviously there is still work
available. Generally speaking, you will need a friend or relative to
help you find a job, and although you may not speak Japanese to
begin with, it won't take long to pick it up. You can expect a wage
of about JPY230,000-300,000 for a factory job, with scope in
some industries for overtime.
Given the alternatives, a lot of people go for commission-based
work, whereby the base salary is low or zero, and then if they have
the people skills (you must be a high-energy people person, or
you'll fail in this area) and hopefully some language skills, you can
make up the difference with commissions. Jobs in this category
include sales, recruiting, financial consulting, outbound call center
work, etc. Generally the base salary is about JPY150,000-220,000.
Commissions of course vary, but are often 5-20% of the service
sold, with 20% being typical for recruiting consultants. One thing
to watch for is that your employer doesn't consider your base
salary a "loan" or "draw". If they do, you'll find your first 2-3
months base salary being deducted from your first commission
check - which would be disappointing to say the least.
Lastly, there is language-based piece work. By this I mean
copywriting, rewriting/editing, translation, etc., which is paid by
the page. The rates really vary depending on your skill and speed.
But if you're trying to force your way into the market, you can
expect that doing copywriting for about JPY5,000 per 200-word
page, rewriting/editing for about JPY500-600 yen per 200-word
page, writing for about JPY30-40 per word, translating for about
JPY1,500-2,500 per 200-word page (J->E), are competitive rates
that will make a language work broker sit up and take notice.
This is not supposed to be an exhaustive list of job options, but all
the above are common routes for newly arrived foreigners, before
settling in and discovering your own niche.
If you are considering a career in the recruiting industry, you can
drop Terrie Lloyd an email for more advice at
email@example.com. You can also see his weekly newsletter,
called Terrie's Take, at www.terrie.com.