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Japan heads toward $1 million salaries in battle for 'genius' tech talent

It's an unusual move in Japan, where workers often take lower pay in exchange for secure employment

Yuji Nakamure | Bloomberg 

Japan, Japan yen, currency
A Japan Yen note. (Photo: Reuters)

Japan is joining the global hiring frenzy for technology engineers, as the nation known for modest pay and lifetime employment competes for cutting-edge talent with China and the US

Start Today Co., which operates popular online fashion shopping site Zozotown, posted new job offerings Monday seeking up to seven "genius" tech experts, offering annual salaries of as much as 100 million yen ($944,000). The listed company, worth $8.4 billion by market capitalization, is looking for workers in fields ranging from to and robotics, according to a blog post.

It’s an unusual move in Japan, where workers often take lower pay in exchange for secure employment. That’s evident even among the relatively well-paid IT professionals, with top software engineers earning on average about $113,000 a year, compared with $250,000 in the US, according to hiring firm

“There’s no precedent for this,” said Tomokazu Betzold, head of tech hiring at Japan. "There’s a long-standing stigma that Japanese companies don’t pay competitively. So this is a really positive development."

Dizzying salaries for tech talent are becoming the norm in China, where compensation at one of the nation’s largest startup can exceed $3 million. In the U.S., one engineer at Alphabet’s self-driving unit made more than $120 million, surpassing the nose-bleed figures offered to some top Wall Street traders.

"As a developer in Silicon Valley you’ll get a chance to earn more than in Tokyo,” said Betzold. “But Japan can still be comparable depending on the position.”

First Published: Tue, April 03 2018. 22:10 IST