Struggling to Find Work? Here Are the Most In-Demand Programming Languages in Japan

Are you a software engineer or computer programmer looking to venture into Japan? Knowing what skills are sought-after is crucial to landing the job of your dreams. To help out, we’ve curated a list of Japan’s top 10 programming languages ranked by job market demand and average wages. Read on to discover how your talents fare in Japan!

The Current Demand for Programmers in Japan

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With an estimated demand of over 1.6 million workers in 2030, the Japanese IT industry is growing at an exponential rate. In fact, the country is currently experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry predicting a potential lack of 790,000 necessary IT specialists by 2030.

To circumvent this shortfall, many Japanese tech companies have begun aggressively hiring foreign talent to help stay afloat. In 2017, there were over 50,000 foreign workers in the IT industry in Japan – a number which has tripled since 2008. As the industry prospers, this trend is set to continue, making it the perfect time to get in on the action!

Figures taken from the following sites:
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Most In-demand Programming Languages in Japan (in 2020)

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Even with experience and talent, it’s important to know what skills are in demand before making drastic career changes. The following data displays the number of job postings seeking specific programming languages across 11 of Japan’s largest job boards. Let’s take a look!

Programming Language No. Of Job Postings
1. Java11,526
2. JavaScript7,472
3. PHP7,383
4. C#6,067
5. C++5,391
6. C5,264
7. Python4,501
8. Ruby3,340
9. Swift1,660
10. Visual Basic1,193
HRog

As we can see, Java has an overwhelming lead with 11,526 job postings requesting the language in Japan. Being the backbone of a wide variety of platforms, including desktop/mobile computing and as a server-side language for back-end development, its enormous demand not just in Japan, but worldwide, is unsurprising. There are a number of large Japanese companies offering system development using Java, including Casareal, Stylez, and System Shared.

In 2nd place is JavaScript with 7,472 job postings. A fundamental programming skill, JavaScript’s role in keeping the internet running smoothly makes it essential at most tech firms. Aside from making websites interactive, JavaScript’s role in building web/mobile apps, creating web servers and server applications, and uses in game development ensure experts in the language rarely lack work in Japan.

PHP follows closely in 3rd place with 7,383 postings. Used by 79.1% of servers on the internet, PHP is a favorite for web development as a server-side language and a highly sought-after skill in Japan.

Overall, this list is fairly similar to worldwide rankings, with CodinGame’s 2021 global survey presenting JavaScript as the most in-demand skill followed by Java and Python. However, the relatively new Java-integrated language Kotlin which has reasonably high global demand didn’t make the cut in Japan.

Highest Paying Programming Languages in Japan (in 2020)

Now that we know the most in-demand programming languages in Japan, it’s time to look at pay. The following list, also from HRog, ranks the highest-paying programming languages in Japan as of 2020. 

Programming LanguageAvg. Annual Income (Lower Limit)
1. R 4,747,434 yen
2. Go 4,634,384 yen
3. TypeScript 4,605,892 yen
4. Scala 4,598,970 yen
5. Kotlin 4,521,563 yen
6. Python 4,353,952 yen
7. Swift 4,250,388 yen
8. JavaScript 4,112,702 yen
9. Ruby 4,106,936 yen
10. Objective-C 3,959,733 yen
Hrog

Coming in 1st is the programming language R with an average yearly salary between 4.7 million – 8.3 million yen. Being a specialized language for statistical analysis, R is often utilized for machine learning and big-data analysis, making it a vital tool for industries dealing with statistics and data mining. As mastering it requires a deep statistical prowess, those familiar with R are well-rewarded for their expertise. Incidentally, there were 1,056 job postings requesting the use of R in Japan.

In 2nd place is the programming language Go with a salary range of 4.6 million – 7.9 million yen. Developed by Google in 2009, Go is apt at high-speed concurrent processing and well versed for back-end development. Go is used by Google alongside several large Japanese companies including CyberAgent, Kyash, and Eureka. There were 932 job postings for Go.

In third place with 4.6 million – 7.8 million is TypeScript, which was created by Microsoft for front-end development. Intended to make up for the shortcomings of JavaScript, it was acknowledged as a standardized language by Google in 2017 and has been gaining attention ever since. In Japan it is used by prominent service provider BizReach and recruitment agency Persol Career, amongst others.

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Overall, these rankings appear somewhat different from the rest of the world. According to a 2020 worldwide IT industry survey by Stack Overflow, R and Typescript only have a mid-sized average salary while Go and Scala are high. Meanwhile, the globally popular Perl doesn’t even get a mention in Japan.

Is Salary the Same for Foreign Workers?

Of course, even if you have the talent, don’t expect to earn these high salaries right away. Japanese custom dictates young workers start off earning less than their older counterparts, with gradual raises and bonuses to incentivize long service. According to Creative Village, Japanese programmers aged 25-29 will likely see an average annual income of around 4 million yen while those in the 55-59 age bracket enjoy a peak income of 5.8 million yen.

Despite the above, salaries for foreign software engineers/computer programmers can be remarkably different. A 2020 survey of international software engineers in Japan showed 47% earning between 4 – 7.9 million yen, while roughly 8% reported making above 14 million. Considering the average salary for a Japanese software engineer peaks in their 50s at roughly 6.3 million, this is a substantial gap.

The same survey also demonstrated that Japanese companies tend to pay remarkably less than those without a Japanese entity, international subsidiaries, or sole proprietorships. From this data, it seems those wanting competitive incomes early in their careers are best to veer towards foreign companies (“gaishikei” in Japanese) rather than traditional Japanese ones. However, similar to Japanese workers, the salary of foreign engineers is also affected by experience, with a large salary jump generally occurring after 5 years of service. For those concerned with Japanese language skill, the survey reports that over 30% of foreign software engineers spoke either none or basic Japanese, proving the possibility of enjoying a career in Japan without the language.

What Programming Language Should I Know to Work in Japan?

So, which programming languages hold the key to a successful career in Japan? Let’s break it down into the following:

Decent income/high opportunity: Java, C languages, PHP, Ruby

High income/limited opportunity: R, Go, TypeScript, Scala, Kotlin

Strong to high income/high opportunity: JavaScript, Python

As demonstrated by the data, Java, C languages, PHP, etc. are widely used in Japan and offer plenty of job opportunities with a decent income. Ruby programming is also incredibly popular, but data shows it is falling out of favor worldwide. On the other hand, languages like R, Go, TypeScript, Scala, and Kotlin have sizable income potential but are yet to see substantial demand on the Japanese job market. However, they have a strong backing, with R jumping from 20th to 8th place in a year on the TIOBE programming community index. For those willing to take a risk and jump aboard a potential winner, this could be your chance.

Arguably the best balance is seen in JavaScript, which runs 8th on income and 2nd in demand. It has ranked consistently in the top 10 programming languages on TIOBE for several years. It is also favored by prominent international companies like Microsoft, PayPal, and Netflix, making it a powerful player unlikely to recede worldwide. Python is also a very strong contender, ranking 6th in income and 7th in demand.

Achieve Your Dream Career in Japan!

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Japan is brimming with opportunity, but jumping abroad with the wrong skill set can lead to failure and disappointment. Ensuring your talents match demand while understanding income potential is necessary for a successful career. Good luck out there!

If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you’d really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook!

By the way, if you're looking for a job or career change and you're already in Japan, we now have a jobs site called tsunagu Local Jobs! On top of having exclusive job listings that you won't find anywhere else, we've vetted all the listings to ensure that they're foreigner-friendly and high quality. If you register for an account on the site, you can even make use of our agent service where our international staff will help you find the perfect job in Japan, so check it out today!

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

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