In-Demand Programming Skills in Japan 2020
Which programming languages have the most demand in 2020? Which of them pay best? In this article, we have a look at the recent data.
The demand for IT specialists and programmers is high in Japan, but it isn’t always easy to find information on which skills Japanese companies are looking for. This article shows you the most sought-after programming languages in Japan by income and demand.
(※This article was last updated on March 18th, 2021.)
What programming languages do Japanese engineers use? Lets have a look at what the companies that employ them are looking for. According to a HRog survey from 2020, the top 10 most-requested programming languages across 11 major Japanese job boards were the following:
|No.||Language||No. of jobs ads|
Python is the most successful newcomer in the Japanese market. It has even surpassed Ruby, which is still widely used in Japan today. Due to being developed in Japan, a lot of Ruby documentation was originally written in Japanese. This makes it easy for Japanese people to engage with and learn the language.
At the bottom of the demand list are newer languages like Go, Scala, and Kotlin. While not used (yet) by most companies, these programming skills tend to fetch the highest salaries, as we will see in a bit.
The above data from HRog was collected in 2019 – there is no 2021 version of the ranking (yet). According to a 2020 survey from IT Street (which includes 2020 data), the top 10 popular programming languages among Japanese engineers were as following:
|No.||Language||% of engineers proficient in the language|
|8.||Visual Basic .NET||5.2%|
This ranking shows the languages most Japanese engineers are proficient in, so it doesn’t reflect the market demand as neatly as the number of job ads. However, high-demand languages tend to attract more people, so the connection is there.
Noticeable about the demand is that it is highest for well-established, “mature” programming languages. This is due to many companies working with codebases that were slowly built up over time. The employment of more recent languages appears to be on the slow side, with the main exception being Python.
OK, so now we have an idea about what languages are most wanted. But which are the best-paying ones? Another look at the HRog data results in the following ranking:
|No.||Language||Avg. annual income (lower limit)|
The high-paying languages tend to fall into two categories. They’re either relatively new languages (like Go, TypeScript and Kotlin) or older languages that are on their way out, but still have to be maintained (like Objective-C). The big exception is R, which is riding on the AI wave. The newer languages also tend to have the least demand.
Keep in mind that these numbers are the overall average, across all fields and age groups. For many companies in Japan, aside from their skills, the employee’s age remains a big factor when deciding salaries.
According to Creative Village, the income of programmers and IT engineers in Japan peaks in the latter half of their 50s at around 5,833,000 JPY for men and 4,973,000 for women. Young people straight out of university start at around 3,000,000 JPY, which is fairly universal in Japan regardless of the industry. However, IT engineers and programmers seem to experience a pretty big annual salary jump in their late 20s.
A quick cross-reference: Unlike HRog, IT Street provides annual rankings divided by age group (20s ~ 50s). For young people Go, R, Scala, Python, Ruby and Swift are all up there. The top 10 for people in their 20s looks like this:
|No.||Language||Avg. annual income (in 10,000 JPY)|
Another rule of thumb is that working at a bigger company tends to come with a higher salary. However, because of Japan’s unique recruitment system, this mostly applies to mid-career job changes. The fresh graduate salary is set fairly uniformly at around 3 million yen per year, even at “big players” (exceptions to the rule exist).
The data suggests that programming languages in Japan can be separated into two main groups:
- Low demand, high pay (R, TypeScript, Go, Scala, Kotlin)
The demand for established languages exceeds those for the high-paying ones by a wide margin. Considering that Japanese entry salaries are relatively uniform, it might be a good idea to look for popular languages for your first job while “leveling up” a newer language on the side. The one language that seems to offer the best of both worlds is Python. On the demand/salary scale, it sits comfortably in the middle.
The numbers we showed in this article can be used as valuable pointers. But in the end, it’s all up to you. After all, what language you learn and use doesn’t depend on raw demand and supply alone, but also the industry or field you want to work in, and your personal preferences.
Japan needs engineers – and if you have the skills, it’s relatively easy to find a job in IT here today. So if programming and developing is your thing, give it a go!
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