Things You Should Know About Working in Japan: What’s the Difference Between a “Sector,” “Industry,” and “Occupation”?


When looking for work in Japan, the three words you should pay attention to are: “Sector” (業種 gyōshū), “Industry” (業界 gyōkai), and “Occupation” (職種 shokushu). Once you understand the difference between them, you’ll be able to steer your career the right direction. So, let’s discuss what all three words actually mean.

What’s the Difference Between a “Sector,” “Industry,” and “Occupation”?

If you want to work in Japan, you will need more than a vague idea of doing “something” here. To find out what kind of job is best suited to you and your skills, you’ll need to know the difference between a “Sector” (業種), “Industry” (業界), and “Occupation” (職種). By doing so, you’ll be able to choose the right kind of company that will let you put your abilities to proper use. So, before you start applying to any Japanese companies, let’s discuss the meanings and some examples of sectors, industries, and occupations in Japan.

1. What’s a Sector (業種)?

A “Sector” is a category of businesses (company or individual).

The Securities Identification Code Committee classifies it as a kind of Profession, defined by the Statistics Bureau (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) in the Japan Standard Industry Classification as “an activity producing something necessary for humans to live,” like Agriculture, Fabrication, Manufacturing, or Finance. In other words, any human activity that produces something can be broadly described as a Profession, with a Sector being its subsection.

Many wanted ads use different words to describe their sectors, but Hello Work (the nickname for the Public Employment Security Office) follows the Japan Standard Industry Classification and uses the following 20 sector names:

A: Agriculture and Forestry
B: Fisheries
C: Mining and Quarrying of Stone and Gravel
D: Construction
E: Manufacturing
F: Electric, Gas, Heat Supply, and Water
G: Information and Communications
H: Transport and Postal Activities
I: Wholesale and Retail Trade
J: Finance and Insurance
K: Real Estate and Goods Rental and Leasing
L: Scientific Research, Professional and Technical Services
M: Accommodations, Eating and Drinking Services
N: Living-related and Personal Services and Amusement Services
O: Education, Learning Support
P: Medical, Health Care and Welfare
Q: Compound Services
R: Services (not elsewhere classified)
S: Government (except elsewhere classified)
T: Industries Unable to Classify

2. What’s an Industry (業界)?

The term “Industry” describes the set of people and companies that are in the same sector or handle the same kind of product. A Sector is defined by a person’s Profession (as we’ve learned previously), while an Industry is defined by the kind of products and services that they offer. However, Industries are still defined on the basis of Sectors, and they can each deal in a wide variety of products and services. Broadly speaking, there are eight main Industries:

・Manufacturing: the production of goods (cars, apparel, etc.)
・Trading: the sale of products obtained via exporting and importing (general and specialized trading companies, etc.)
・Retail: the sale of products to consumers (department stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, etc.)
・Finance: the management of money for profit (banks, stock companies, life insurance, property insurance, etc.)
・Services: the provision of services (education, welfare/nursing, travel, hotels, etc.)
・Software/Telecommunications: adding value to information and selling it (companies that offer services relating to information transfer and processing, etc.)
・Mass Media: the provision of information to large groups of people for profit (broadcasting, newspapers, publishing, advertising, etc.)
・Government: state and local public offices (government offices, city offices, ward offices, town offices, police, public universities, hospitals, etc.)

3. What’s an Occupation (職種)?

An “Occupation” is type of vocation or function. While “Sector” and “Industry” describe the frameworks of corporations, Occupations focus on roles within companies and are defined by the kind of duties a person performs. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s occupation classification used by Hello Work, there are 11 types of occupations:

・Manager: managers/executives at government organizations and companies
・Specialist/Technician: researchers, technological developers, physicians, pharmacists, etc.
・Businessperson: general and specialized businesspeople
・Salesperson: cashiers, retail employees, etc.
・Serviceperson: hotel/inn attendants, recreational facility staff, beauticians, nursing care staff, etc.
・Public Safety Officer: members of the Self-Defense force, police officers, security guards, etc.
・Agricultural, Forestry, or Fishery Worker: farmers raising beef and dairy cattle, tree surgeons, etc.
・Manufacturing Worker: ironworkers, aircraft maintenance staff, etc.
・Shipping Worker/Machine Operator: railroad conductors, airplane navigators, bus guides, etc.
・Construction or Mining Worker: construction workers, plumbers, miners, etc.
・Transportation Worker, Cleaning Staff, or Packaging Staff: mail carriers, delivery people, road cleaners, product packaging staff, etc.

They Don’t Have These Abroad? A Look at Japan’s Unique Traditional Occupations

Countries all over the world have their own unique vocations with a lot of history and tradition behind them. Japan is no different. Although the country has lost a lot of traditional occupations due to its rapid Westernization that started in the 19th century, many have survived to this day.

The most unique Japanese occupations include:
– Professions relating to the arts and culture: Noh players, kyogen performers, kabuki actors, traditional court musicians, etc.
– Craftspeople producing traditional Japanese goods: temple and shrine carpenters, lacquer workers (those who make lacquer ware, i.e. goods coated with sap from the Japanese lacquer tree), Noh mask-makers, swordsmiths making traditional Japanese bladed weaponry, craftspeople who make and repair tatami mats, etc.

Unfortunately, the professionals who still practice these traditional arts and crafts are getting older, with not enough young people following in their footsteps.

Japanese Occupations Open to Foreigners

Not all occupations are open to all foreign workers in Japan. It all depends on your status of residence. For example, long-term residents like permanent residents, spouses of Japanese nationals, or spouses of permanent residents can work in any sector and engage in any occupation they want. All other visas restrict the kind of work you can do in one way or another, so you have to be careful not to engage in work that is prohibited under your resident status. As of April 2020, there are 19 kinds of resident statuses (work visas) that grant foreigners a limited right to work in Japan.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs website

The most popular resident status for foreigners hired by Japanese companies is the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa. It usually applies to jobs like engineer, designer, and interpreter. That said, in recent years, more and more companies have started hiring foreigners with specialized knowledge and skills, bringing them to Japan on Highly-Skilled Professional visas.

All foreign workers in Japan must not deviate from the activities, tasks, and places of work permitted by their residence status, so it’s important to check what kind of jobs you’re allowed to do based on your visa. And to do that, you need to know all about Sectors, Industries, and Occupations.

Now that you understand what a Sector, Industry, and Occupation are, you can more efficiently search for that perfect job in Japan!

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.