8 Different Types of Employment In Japan And How They Are Changing

Employment in Japan is drastically different when compared to many other countries. So different that I thought it warrants an article explaining the different types of employment Japan has to offer and how they are changing.


(1) Arubaito/baito  アルバイト・バイト

The strict definition of an arubaito is a job that someone does while they are a student. It could be 1 hour a week, it could be 40 hours a week – if you’re a student, it’s most likely an arubaito you’re doing.

Typical arubaito jobs are supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants. Since it is often inexperienced students doing these jobs, they are quite easy to obtain (assuming you have the required Japanese).

(Not suitable for visas)

(2) Part-time パート

Part-time is quite similar to an arubaito except for the fact the employee is not a student. They tend to work shifts several times a week and is often the same or similar to arubaito jobs. A good example of someone who does this kind of work would be a housewife who has a few extra hours of the day they have spare to work.

(Not suitable for visas)

(3) Freeter フリーター

A ‘freeter‘ is typically someone who works full-time hours but does not commit to the job for extended periods of time. They may work for 6 months, take a break or travel, then find a new job and start saving up again. Freeters often tend to have a bad image in Japan, but to each their own!

(Not suitable for visas)

(4) Neet ニート

Neet is not a form of employment, but rather a status of unemployment. The term N.E.E.T stands for ‘Not in Education, Employment, or Training’.

Neets go long periods of time without employment and have a rather bad image. Neets are often associated with hikkikomori shut-ins. (Click here for an article about that).

(Not suitable for visas)

(5) Contract Employee 契約社員 けいやくしゃいん

A keiyaku-shain is a typical contract employee. Contract employees may have mid-high hourly wages that depending on your specialties, can earn a lot of money. However, as Japan is all about job stability, becoming a contract employee is not always seen as ideal since your contract may not be renewed. In reality, however, most contract employees get their contracts easily renewed and have complete stability (unless it’s specified when applying for the job).

(Applicable for visas)

(6) Agency Employee 派遣社員 はけんしゃいん

A haken-shain is employed directly by an agency who then charges the company you will actually work for. For many university graduates, becoming an agency employee is often not seen as successful. This is mainly because compared to number 7 on the list, the wages are considerably lower (often due to bonuses). However, in recent years, the amount of agency employees has been drastically increasing and is now up to around 30%. Some university students graduate with the sole intention of working for an agency. This is because compared to number 7, the responsibility is much lighter and there is often no or little of Japan’s infamous overtime hours.

Recently, the law has been changed to make the maximum length one can work at a single company is three years. The new law is still unclear what will happen when one reaches the limit.

(Not suitable for visas)

(7) Lifetime Employee 正社員 せいしゃいん

This is by far the hardest type of employee to become. Many university students will start searching for these kinds of jobs 1-3 years before they even graduate university and may be required to attend up to five interviews. Particularly in spring, you will often see an army of clones wearing completely black suits rushing around the train stations. These are freshly employed seishain. There are many advantages of becoming one – job stability, bonuses, increased wages each year, and promotions. However, you are often expected to pretty much give your heart and soul to the company. You will be expected to attend all the company drinking parties, even after working a ridiculous amount of overtime – and generally must always put the company before yourself, your family and sometimes even your health. That’s why it’s extremely important to choose your company carefully, and whatever you do, don’t enter a ‘black company‘.

(Applicable for visas)

(8) Self-employed 自営業者 じえいぎょうしゃ

As a foreigner, being self-employed could be quite difficult in Japan. You will be required to submit the necessary documents and pay the required taxes based on your company’s income and profits. There is a visa for those who wish to be self-employed in Japan, but I believe it requires a $50,000 capital and some sort of office. (For those interested in this, I recommend consulting with someone who has experience with this).

(Applicable for visas, but very difficult)


Good luck! 

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