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Foreign workers are paid less than Japanese colleagues: private survey

  • September 11, 2019
  • , NIKKEI Business Daily , p. 15
  • JMH Translation

By Go Sakurai


Nearly 20% of Japanese firms pay foreign full-time workers less than Japanese workers, according to a survey by Persol Research and Consulting Co. (Minato Ward, Tokyo). A pay scale based on seniority, which is still popular with many Japanese firms, is believed to be an obstacle to foreign workers, as they work for a relatively short span of time compared with their Japanese colleagues. Many companies are hiring foreign workers to cope with personnel shortages, but they may need to improve their pay systems to improve foreign workers’ job retention.  


The survey was conducted online at the end of June, covering 500 Japanese firms that hire foreign workers.


Asked the monthly wage paid for a job employing a large number of foreign workers, those who were surveyed answered 366,000 yen on average. A Japanese colleague who works in the same job was paid 412,000 yen.


Asked whether foreign workers are paid differently from their Japanese colleagues, the largest number of firms surveyed, 76.5%, said they “pay the same wage.” Meanwhile, 18.6% said foreign workers are “paid less than Japanese workers” and 5% said foreign workers are “paid more than Japanese workers.”


Yuji Kobayashi, a senior researcher at Persol Research and Consulting, cited the seniority system as a cause for the wage difference. “In Japan, many firms use a seniority-based wage system,” he said. “Japanese people tend to work longer than their foreign colleagues though they do a similar job and that’s why Japanese workers are paid more than foreign workers.”


But he also pointed out there is a correlation between the percentage of foreign workers’ leaving jobs and the difference between their and Japanese workers’s wages. The survey revealed that companies where foreigner workers leave jobs at a rate higher than Japanese workers pay foreign workers 106,000 yen less than Japanese workers on average. Even at firms where foreign workers leave jobs at lower rates than Japanese workers’, foreign workers are paid less than Japanese workers but the difference was only 19,000 yen. (Abridged)

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