5 benefits of working for foreign companies in Japan

By Robert Half on 16 August 2022

What images are conjured up when you think about working for a foreign company in Japan? Many people believe there are significant differences between Japanese companies and foreign companies, both in terms of their wage structures and their workplace environments—that foreign companies offer higher salaries, for example, or that they are more likely to employ diverse human resources with a variety of values.

Alternatively, some of you may harbor concerns that foreign companies are more rigorous when it comes to demanding results, and that their corporate cultures are more performance-oriented. However, feedback from employees who have used our recruitment services to move to foreign companies indicates the opposite: many of them were delighted with their moves, commenting “I’m happy to be embarking on my dream career.”

Broadly speaking, there are five advantages to working for foreign companies in Japan:

  1. Foreign companies in Japan offer high levels of pay
  2. They provide fair human resource assessments
  3. They value original opinions
  4. Their global environments enhance interpersonal skills
  5. They make it easy to find a work-life balance

Read on below to find out more about each of these advantages.

1. Foreign companies in Japan offer high levels of pay

Foreign companies with the financial muscle to expand into overseas markets tend to offer high levels of pay, and so moving from a Japanese company to a foreign equivalent will likely net you a higher annual salary. While salaries at Japanese companies are often based on the age of an employee and length of service, at foreign companies such factors are rarely considered when deciding salaries.

Employee wages at foreign companies typically consist of a base salary plus performance-linked incentives. This base salary is equivalent to the “kihon-kyu”—or basic salary—paid at Japanese companies; its value is decided at the time of joining, based on factors such as an employee’s competence and previous experience. Meanwhile, the value of performance-linked incentives varies depending on whether an individual employee meets his or her targets, or whether the company as a whole achieves its goals.

Indeed, this is a major point of difference between Japanese companies and foreign companies in Japan; at foreign companies, performance-linked incentives account for a higher proportion of an employee’s overall pay. Although exact percentages differ according to industry and occupation, an employee’s performance-linked incentives are generally one to two times the value of his or her base salary. For those employed in sales positions or executive positions—in other words, in positions that contribute significantly to a company’s revenues—it is not unusual to receive sizeable bonuses of more than one million yen, just a year after joining.

To discover more about salaries at foreign companies in Japan, take a look at the latest issue of our salary guide, which outlines appropriate salary levels for different occupations.

2. Fair assessments of diverse human resources, resulting in motivating work environments

Are you familiar with the term “DEI”? It is a new concept that incorporates the idea of “equity” into “diversity and inclusion.” Via “diversity,” companies seek to increase their competitiveness by encouraging diverse human resources to express contrasting viewpoints; “equity” refers to providing equal opportunities to these human resources; “inclusion” is the desired result, so that all members of a company’s diverse human resources feel included.

The majority of foreign companies actively promote DEI. Since everyone is assessed fairly, it makes for motivating work environments. Underlying this recent focus on DEI is a realization that an equal distribution of resources does not necessarily result in equal opportunities for employment or advancement in the workplace. This is a problem that affects not only companies, but society as a whole.

To take an example close to home, few Japanese companies have systems in place that encourage female employees to return to work after childbirth, or that ensure they receive proper salary increases if they do return to work. Female employees with children are deprived of opportunities to level up their skills or to advance in the workplace, even if they have the desire. DEI seeks to eliminate such inequities and, instead, ensure that all employees have access to the resources and tools required for their individual circumstances.

At foreign companies that promote DEI, you can expect to be fairly assessed; this heightens motivation, and will likely encourage you to work to the best of your abilities.

You can see Robert Half’s commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion from here.

3. Foreign companies in Japan value human resources that voice original opinions

Foreign companies value original opinions highly, if they contribute to work process improvements or overall performance. This is another point of difference from Japanese companies.

Business environments are evolving at breakneck speed, and consumer needs are constantly shifting. If companies wish to identify and meet consumer needs at the earliest opportunity, then they must come up with creative products and services. Indeed, unless they continue to respond swiftly to these changes, they may face existential difficulties.

Given these circumstances, foreign companies place high value on human resources that are capable of reforming existing work processes, or of proposing products and services that rivals do not possess—even if their ideas are entirely without precedent.

In addition, foreign companies are committed to the idea that encouraging diverse human resources to express original viewpoints and to engage in lively discussions is indispensable for growth.

Since originality and initiative are so highly regarded, if you move to a foreign company, you can expect to find numerous opportunities to engage in work that is uniquely suited to your skillset; the environments you encounter will also provide an even greater sense of fulfillment and achievement.

4. Interpersonal skills are enhanced in global environments

Working at a foreign company in Japan, you will be required to develop not only your work skills but also your interpersonal skills. Globalized work environments mean you will be compelled to interact on a daily basis with Americans, Europeans, Asians—as well as bosses, colleagues, and clients from a host of other nations and cultures.

Japanese business etiquette and customs will at times prove ineffective—and you will have to be accepting of and respond flexibly to different cultures. However, if a company wishes to grow, it is dutybound to assemble an international workforce of talented employees, and enable them to exchange views while they work. Mingling with people from various races and cultures will also lead you to broaden your perspectives and attitudes. As a result, you may acquire the ability to come up with novel methods and solutions for dealing with clients.

As you can see, one of the benefits of working for a foreign company in Japan is that, in addition to improving your skillsets, you will have the opportunity to grow as a person.

5. Foreign companies make it easy to achieve a work-life balance

Another advantage of working for a foreign company is that you can more easily maximize both your work and your private life—in other words, it is easier to achieve a work-life balance.

Since personnel assessments at foreign companies are based on performance, there is little value in working long hours without achieving results. On the contrary, a premium is placed on performing efficiently within prescribed timeframes.

So long as you continue to achieve the targets you have been set, many companies will allow you to choose flexible work hours or work from home, and freely adjust your work hours according to the volume of work you have. This means that you do not have to dedicate yourself wholly to your work and can, instead, take time to enjoy your private life—by immersing yourself in your hobbies, for example, or engaging in self-improvement activities.

Many foreign companies also provide favorable treatment to employees who are nursing family members, giving birth, or raising children. Compared to Japanese companies, then, there is a lower risk that your career will be disrupted by family commitments.

Clearly, one of the major attractions of foreign companies is that they make it easier for you to build the lifestyle of your dreams. They allow you to choose your preferred work style and develop your skillsets, yet still enjoy a wholesome private life.


When it comes to switching jobs, different people have different criteria—decisive factors may include the potential to improve your skills, increase your salary, or enrich your private life. As outlined above, foreign companies in Japan are more likely to fulfill your criteria, making it easier for you to shape your ideal career and lifestyle.

Robert Half is the largest recruitment agency in the world. Our Tokyo and Osaka Offices in Japan will connect you with job openings in various industries both at foreign companies in Japan and at major Japanese corporations with a global reach.

Even if you are new to changing jobs, our career consultants will provide you with committed support from the start of your job-finding process to the end. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

If you wish to keep up to date with the latest recruitment information for foreign companies in Japan, please check our jobseekers webpage.

Robert Half is itself a foreign company that operates in Japan. If you would like to find out more about our DEI and employee welfare initiatives, please visit the following page: Robert Half Career

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