What is the average starting salary in Japan?

April 1st marked the start of the new fiscal year for almost all companies in Japan, as throngs of young people started new jobs amidst the turmoil of the coronavirus outbreak. It’s now two weeks into April. Coronavirus or not and “lockdown” or not, many of us are carrying on with our working lives (albeit online, in some cases). And in just a few more works, Japan’s young workers will finally get their first salary payments! In this article, we give an overview of average starting salaries in Japan.

Average starting salary data below comes from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s Annual Wage Statistical Survey for 2019, the latest year for which this data is available. For last year’s survey and analysis, please see this article: What is the average starting salary in Japan and which companies pay the highest starting salaries – 2018?

Key takeaways on average starting salary in Japan

  • The average monthly starting salary for a university graduate is ¥210,200 ($1,956) per month, a YoY increase of 1.7%.
  • Looking at all educational levels, genders, and across industries, men with graduate-level degrees working in the financial services and insurance industries had the highest average starting salary: ¥246,700.
  • Across all educational levels, men have higher average starting salaries than women.
  • Average starting salaries rose on a year-on-year basis for all educational levels, except for men with a graduate level degree, for whom average starting salaries fell slightly (-0.4%) to ¥239,000. Despite the annual decrease, this group (men with a graduate level degree) still had the highest starting salary across all educational levels and genders.
  • In 2019, women with a university degree had average starting salaries of ¥206,900, a YoY increase of 2.1%, the highest annual increase of any educational level or gender, and a reversal from 2018, when average salaries for university-educated women fell by 0.7%.
  • For university graduates, the industry with the highest starting salary is the academic research / specialized and professional services industry at ¥227,200 (+1.2% YoY). “Specialized and professional services” would include professionals like accountants, lawyers, and doctors.
  • For university graduates, the industry with the lowest monthly starting salary is the hospitality / food services industry at ¥200,800 (+1.4%).
  • Average starting salaries for university graduates increased across all industries in 2019 compared to 2018.
  • Important components of compensation in Japan are semi-annual bonuses, usually paid in summer and winter. Looking only at monthly average salaries will tend to understate workers’ actual annual salaries. The average starting salaries summarized below do not include bonuses, so to get an idea of average bonuses by industry, please scroll to the section on bonuses.
  • Please keep in mind that this data represents average salaries. Individual companies can (and do) offer much higher average starting salaries. This is especially true in the financial services and information technology (IT) sectors. We will publish a follow up post with more recent data on 2020 average starting salaries by industry, with examples of companies that pay higher than average starting salaries.

1. What is the average starting salary in Japan by educational level?

The data below is broken down by level of schooling completed. The number in parenthesis shows the year-on-year change.

Average monthly starting salary in JPY by educational level – Both men and women

  • Graduate School: ¥238,900 (+0.1%)
  • University: ¥210,200 (+1.7%)
  • Two-Year College / Technical school: ¥183,900 (+1.4%)
  • High School: ¥167,400 (+1.4%)

Average monthly starting salary in JPY by educational level – Men only

  • Graduate School: ¥239,000 (-0.4%)
  • University: ¥212,800 (+1.3%)
  • Two-Year College / Technical school: ¥184,700 (+1.0%)
  • High School: ¥168,900 (+1.4%)

Average monthly starting salary in JPY by educational level – Women only

  • Graduate School: ¥238,300 (+1.8%)
  • University: ¥206,900 (+2.1%)
  • Two-Year College / Technical school: ¥183,400 (+1.7%)
  • High School: ¥164,600 (+1.4%)

2. What is the average starting salary in Japan by industry?

For holders of advanced degrees – By industry

The data below is broken down by industry, for employees with advanced degrees. The number in parenthesis shows the year-on-year change.

  • Average of all industries: ¥238,900 (+0.1%)
  • Construction: ¥245,300 (+5.1%)
  • Manufacturing: ¥235,800 (+0.8%)
  • Information / Communication: ¥244,000 (+3.7%)
  • Transport / Delivery: ¥230,900 (-0.4%)
  • Wholesale / Retail: ¥235,700 (+0.9%)
  • Financial Services / Insurance: ¥246,700 (+2.2%)
  • Academic Research / Specialized & Professional Services: ¥245,500 (-7.9%)
  • Hospitality / Food Service: ¥169,600 (-21.6%): Big YoY drop is primarily due to a change in the types of businesses that were not included in the 2018 survey (bars, cabarets, and nightclubs)
  • Education / Educational Support: ¥242,300 (+4.3%)
  • Healthcare / Welfare: ¥209,100 (+3.9%)
  • Other Service Industries: ¥229,300 (+2.8%)

For holders of university degrees – By industry

The data below is broken down by industry, for employees with university degrees. The number in parenthesis shows the year-on-year change.

  • All industries: ¥210,200 (+1.7%)
  • Construction: ¥216,700 (+1.0%)
  • Manufacturing: ¥206,600 (+0.7%)
  • Information / Communication: ¥218,100 (+1.1%)
  • Transport / Delivery: ¥201,500 (+1.5%)
  • Wholesale / Retail: ¥211,000 (+2.7%)
  • Financial Services / Insurance: ¥207,300 (+1.3%)
  • Academic Research / Specialized & Professional Services: ¥227,200 (+1.2)
  • Hospitality / Food Service: ¥200,800 (+1.4%)
  • Education / Educational Support: ¥209,400 (+1.7%)
  • Healthcare / Welfare: ¥206,900 (+2.7%)
  • Other Service Industries: ¥205,300 (+1.6%)

3. What are average bonuses like by industry?

Important components of compensation in Japan are semi-annual bonuses, usually paid in summer and winter.

The table below shows the average annual bonuses by industry for 2016. Bonuses for listed companies and IT companies tend to be higher than the averages shown in the table. Because the data set below comes from a different source than the data above for average starting salaries, industry categories do not match exactly.

A key takeaway from the data is bonus amounts tend to be correlated with age of the employee.


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Sources: Ministry of Labor Annual Wage Statistical Survey , Bonus Life Affiliate (2016)

Lead photo: Tokyo, Japan-October 23, 2013, Shinagawa Station, iStock stock photo