With the COVID 19 pandemic dragging on, many people in Japan, especially foreigners, are finding fewer and fewer hours at their main jobs. Fewer hours, the weakening value of the yen, severe inflation (have you seen kaiten sushi prices recently?!), and the general shift towards flexible work might have you eyeing a side job. But before you start applying to every work-from-home eikaiwa or translation job, what are the rules for working a side job here in Japan?
Japan; the land of the salaryman. Working from morning to night before going out with his boss for drinks and grabbing the last train home, his necktie firmly around his head. He joined his company at 22 when he graduated from college and won’t leave until he retires. You couldn’t imagine him having a side hustle…could you?
While the image of the stereotypical salaryman may remain, the reality of work here in Japan is changing. Before he left office in 2020, ex-prime minister Shinzo Abe pushed several work reforms targeting everything from long overtime hours to policies that make it difficult to work part-time jobs on the side. While we still hear horror stories of hundreds of hours of monthly overtime from some “black companies,” side jobs have grown in popularity in Japan since many of the policies went into effect.
The considerable growth in the popularity of side jobs led to 2018 being called the “first year of the side job era” (副業元年). Although the number of people who want to work second jobs has been growing since the early 1990s and the actual number of people actually doing second jobs has on the upswing since 1992. Obviously, side jobs are getting big in Japan, but as with most things, foreigners have a few more considerations before jumping in. Read on to see some of the major considerations for foreigners looking to start side jobs in Japan.
You probably already have your residence card if you’re reading this, but did you know that you may need special permission to work part-time even if you have a working visa? Depending on your type of visa and the type of part-time job you’re looking to do, you may need special permission before you pick up a part-time job.
※Please remember to consult with a legal professional or the immigration authority before making any visa-related decisions※
The basic rule is to consider whether or not your current visa covers the work you’re doing. If you applied for your visa as an English teacher and are looking to pick up some hours at an Eikaiwa on the weekends, you should be totally fine with your current visa (you still need to consider your taxes and employer’s rules, so keep reading!). But what do you need to do if you want to pick up different work? For example, if you’re teaching English but want to pick up some side work as a graphic designer or consultant, you probably need to go and apply for 資格外活動許可. If you’ve held a student visa and applied to work part-time, you’ve already gone through the application process once. In most cases, the application goes quite quickly and often is accepted, and you get the stamp on your residence card the same day.
So you’ve got your stamp, time to hit the side hustle grind, right? Maybe, but you still have to be careful of a few things—the number of hours. If you’re working on a 資格外活動許可, then you can only work your side job for 28 hours a week. If you go over this maximum, it could mean serious trouble, including deportation. Your boss should also know the rules, especially if you’re working at a company that hires many foreigners part-time, but better to be safe than deported.
If you are on a spouse visa, permanent resident, or long-term resident visa, you are free to work as many jobs as you like, but you must remember to follow the rules of your current employer and file your taxes correctly.
Taxes, you’ve got to pay them.
Let’s face it; taxes are boring and hard to understand at the best of times. Doing taxes in Japanese? Even harder. But, as a foreigner, it is best to avoid tax problems, especially if you want to apply for permanent residency in the future.
Depending on your situation, you may need to fill out your own tax forms and submit them to the tax authority. If your primary employer uses systems like Freee, it is also possible that you could need to fill in extra information at year-end. I am not a tax professional, so I can’t help you with your exact situation, but did you know that the Japanese tax office offers hotline help in English? (Here is the number of each Regional Tax Bureau, and here is the Tokyo office number that offers English assistance during business hours.)
So you’ve figured out your visa situation, you found a place to work part-time, and you know what needs to be done when the taxman comes.
All set, right? Wrong.
You may be all set from the standpoint of the Japanese government, but your current employer may have something to say about you getting a side job. There is a decent chance that your company regulations (就業規則) don’t allow for you to work a side job alongside your primary job.
Wait…Is that legal?
That’s… complicated. The Japanese constitution preserves the right for citizens to decide on their place of employment, but we aren’t citizens and even so, it doesn’t prohibit employers from punishing you for going against your contract if it includes a rule that says you can’t have a side job. There are examples of the courts siding with employers when an employee’s side business hurts the company’s business or branding. Some courts have handed down decisions that taking a second job without permission when you have a clause that forbids it could be considered a break of trust on the part of the employee. So, it might not be explicitly legal, but things probably aren’t in your favor, and the extra income you make from a part-time job wouldn’t cover the cost of a long legal battle.
For example, the JET Programme does not allow any side work on the part of its ALTs. Each company has different rules, so it is best to check the information packet you probably received when you started your job or to ask your manager or HR department.
What about ZenMarket? Do we have any rules about side jobs?
Yes, but they are pretty relaxed. Our big rules are that you can’t do your side job during working hours (no coming to work and sending side job emails while you’re supposed to be doing your ZenMarket job), and your side job can’t be in the same field as ZenMarket’s current businesses. Pretty easy going, right?
We recently caught up with some ZenMembers who have part-time side jobs on the good and the bad of side jobs in Japan.
When we asked around the office for people’s side jobs, we got some surprising and not-so-surprising answers. Here is a list of some of the side hustles ZenMembers have.
・Consultant on Countryside Revitalization (Specifically inbound travel related)
・Artist (Exhibitions and collaborations with brands)
・Ukranian Video and Document Translation
・Managing Web Media
◆Positives of side work◆
Here are some of the positives of working a part-time job, according to ZenMembers.
①Feelings of happiness and accomplishment
・”I used to work in the travel industry, so I get to use that experience and help bridge Japan and the rest of the world. I also get to go and eat the specialty cuisines all over Japan and get to know Japan on an even deeper level.”
・”As a Ukrainian, I get a feeling of accomplishment getting to use my identity in Japan.”
・”I’m happy that players worldwide can read my translations and enjoy themselves.”
・”As an artist, I share my point of view with the world.”
・”I like to be creative, so my side job feels like a hobby, and I make lots of new connections and experience new things.”
・”I get to meet many people who have different backgrounds. I was thinking about starting my own business, but I have also gotten the chance to grow and accomplish more as a team member.”
・”I get to participate in events and meet and talk to many other artists.”
③Improving their main jobs
・”I get to meet many people through my side job and can introduce people to ZenPlus as a service.”
・”ZenMarket is a place where I can use my creativity, so I’m happy when my side work is useful to my day job.”
・”I started working 15 years later than most people, so my savings are slightly behind everyone else. The part-time job helps with that.”
⑤Maintaining skills you don’t use every day
・”I’m able to maintain my Ukrainian and translating skills. I use both Japanese and Ukrainian in my current job, but it isn’t exactly translation. My side job lets me use my university major.”
◆Difficulties of side work◆
Of course, there can also be some difficulties when it comes to working two jobs at once. We asked the same members what kinds of difficulties they have faced when double working.
①Time Management Issues
・”I have to sacrifice my sleep time to paint. “
・”Consulting takes a lot of time. Review meetings and brainstorming sessions can be hard to plan. With the pandemic, plans can suddenly change or get canceled as well. “
・”It tests my time management skills because I need to plan around my day job.”
・”I check my messages and mail address while commuting or having lunch. If my clients need to meet, I usually have to take a full day or half-day off. The fact that I can work on holidays at ZenMarket and use those days off elsewhere really helps.”
②It can be exhausting
・”I work full time as a manager. Doing a side job on top of that can be really tough. Since the Russian invasion, I have been getting many requests. Since there isn’t usually much work as a Ukrainian translator, I take any job even if I’m exhausted.”
③It can be stressful
・”When I can’t express myself the way I want, my painting isn’t quite right, I have deadlines, or I get criticized, it can be stressful.”
・”Since I am working as an independent contractor, I get a little stressed when I need to do my taxes.”
So there you go. There’s a brief look at the hurdles you might have to overcome when starting a side hustle here in Japan and a look at the experiences of some ZenMembers who have second jobs. If you’re looking for a company that’s cool with you working a side job or just looking for a main job, check out some of the available jobs here at ZenMarket. Or check out some of our other blogs to see what it’s like to work here.