By now, stories of Japan’s graying population have been told many times in many ways. More than 20% percept of the country’s population is over the age of 65, worrying locals about the future as the workforce continues to shrink. While Japan is not the only country suffering from the label of a “super-aged” society, they certainly receive the most attention as being one of the more extreme cases. In fact, the world is set to have 13 “super-aged” societies by the year 2020. At this rate, it seems like a natural progression of developed countries. So instead of approaching the subject as if it were the end of the world, let’s explore the possibilities.
- Chance for a better life for foreign workers
To counter the looming labor shortage and subsequent economic decline that comes with an aging population, countries, like Japan, are looking outside their own borders to find young, skilled, and eager workers from around the world. A 2018 Pew Research Center study concluded that the majority of Japanese people believe that immigrants make the country stronger. This is great for a number of reasons, but for foreign workers, it is especially incredible news.
As “super-aged” societies grow in number, counties will have to compete to gain the attention of potential workers from overseas, prompting them to improve conditions for foreigners coming into their country. Japan, which has been criticized in the past for its treatment of foreign workers, has recently enacted a law to ensure that Japanese companies must pay foreigner workers the same as their Japanese counterparts. Additionally, companies will be required to pay workers by direct deposit, rather than in cash, to protect them from having their paycheck withheld, and companies will be asked to have staff available to aid foreign workers. These new laws, along with other measures to improve quality of life across the board, aim to attract more foreigners for labor in Japan.
So there are plenty of jobs opening in the future, but how much can you really make? As if living in one of the safest and most beautiful countries in the world wasn’t good enough, foreigners can now also earn a very reasonable wage. The three main industries that are welcoming workers from outside Japan (Nursing, Hospitality, and Food Service) offer an annual salary from 2,350,000 yen to 3,300,000 yen. For many people this is an extraordinary opportunity, especially considering the relatively low cost of preparing and applying for the “Specified Skills” exams.
- Saving money in Japan
Even though you may be stacking up plenty of cash, living in Japan — specifically Tokyo — is expensive right? That is not completely true. While the cost of living may be higher than many places around the world, it is absolutely possible to save money and pocket a good chunk of your hard-earned paycheck.
As you may have heard, Tokyo can obviously be expensive housing-wise, but other cities around Japan, like Nagano, are much more affordable. Taking that into account, you can expect to pay around 88,000 yen to 124,000 yen per month including rent and other necessities like food, utilities, Internet, phone bill, and other miscellaneous costs. That should leave plenty leftover to save and for a little bit of fun. If you really budget, it is possible to reduce the cost of living even further. Here are a few ideas to keep the money you earn in Japan.
- Cooking and grocery shopping
Unfortunately, there is no magic spell to keep your bank account healthy. As in many other situations in life, the devil is in the details — as they say — when it comes to spending in Japan. All of the quick trips to the conbini, food stalls, and ramen shops scattered along the streets in Japan can really add up to a surprising amount of money. Though the famously delicious Japanese food can be quite tantalizing, the best thing you can do to keep up your savings is to cook. This includes making adorable Japanese bentos to take with you to work for lunch. Grow your wallet and shrink your waistline with this simple habit.
To stretch your cash even further, you can do your grocery shopping late at night. Many supermarkets will offer discounts after a certain time, so be sure to check with your local grocer for great discounts after the sun (and prices) go down. Also, domestic Japanese grown fruit actually tend to be more expensive than imported fruit from other countries. Some major cheap supermarkets in Japan are Ozeki, Y’s Mart, and Seiyu. Of course, depending on your location, there may be even cheaper local stores selling a wide range of incredible food ready to be cooked at home.
- 100 yen or “Hyaku-en” stores and recycle shops
The cost of daily life and necessities can be managed well by making 100 yen shops your number 1 stop for all your household needs. Daiso, Seria, Can Do, Lawson Store 100, and more “hyaku-en” establishments are great resources for the cash-strapped life in Japan. Though these stores are very cheap alternatives, you can still expect decent quality from their products. You can find almost anything you need including, food, kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, home decorations, and much more for great prices.
Not everything you purchase for your apartment or wardrobe has to be brand-new. Buying second-hand items is another great way to save money. Across Japan, there are a plenty of great second-hand clothing stores — many of which are surprisingly fashionable. You can look your best without breaking the bank. Also recycle shops are of great value when shopping for furniture and household items like refrigerators, microwaves, lights, and vacuum cleaners. Mostly neighborhoods have at least one local recycle shop, while major chains like Hard Off or Book Off can be found throughout the country.
- Using point cards
Like most other people around the world, the Japanese love to shop. To win over some loyal customers, many stores offer some attractive point cards. Some are much more useful than others, and it takes time to build up enough points to really make much of a difference. However, if you frequent one of the major electronic stores like Yamada Denki for supplies, eventually you will see a little bit coming back your way. The oversaturation of point cards make easy to ignore, but it is worth it in the long run.
Though you can reduce the cost of daily life with careful shopping and planning, there were certain inevitabilities, like the price of rent and utilities. But there are actually some late night deals from gas and electric companies to help with the housing costs in Japan. These utilities are cheaper from about 11:00pm to the early hours of the morning. Try sticking to a schedule for washing, cooking, and charging electronics.
- Invest in yourself
Knowing how much money you can make in Japan and how to keep that hard-earned cash, it’s clear that Japan is a great opportunity for foreign workers. One of the major hurdles to life in Japan is obviously the language barrier. However, even this struggle can be easily overcome with a little studying. Many affordable online courses, like the JapanWorkLive JLPT courses can help you pass the language tests needed to secure a working visa in Japan. With examination centers opening up around Asia for Japan’s new “Specified Skills” visa, there is no better time to start learning Japanese. A small investment in your education can really pay off in the future.
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