Salaries of Japanese Mayors
By Andrew Stevens, City Mayors Fellow
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Japanese mayors receive
upper management salaries
January 2022: Mayors in Japan are typically among the highest earners in their municipal government with a salary that is comparable to that of upper-middle management in a large firm. The salary amount is collectively decided by each city assembly, which also has the power to raise or lower the amount.
Topping the table of highest-earning mayors once again is the city of Yokohama, whose mayor Takeharu Yamanaka receives an annual salary of almost ¥19.2 million, while at the other end of the scale Takashi Kawamura of Nagoya receives just under a third of this figure with an annual pay packet of ¥6 million, despite leading one of Japan’s largest city administrations. However, it should be noted that Kawamura has consistently cut his own salary as leader of the Genzei Nippon (Tax Cut Japan) movement to reduce salaries of senior government officials, therefore it would be considered anomalous compared to the remainder of mayors in Japan overall. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike slashed her salary by 50 per cent as part of a pledge made during her first election in 2016, though this still ranked in the mid-range at ¥14.48m annually once bonuses are included (compared to the eye-watering ¥17m a year paid to each of the 127 members of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Assembly).
Though the mayors of the 20 designated cities have largely eschewed the recent trend seen in smaller city mayoral races, with one winning candidate even slashing his salary by 90 per cent to outbid the incumbent’s 50 per cent cut, Fukuoka mayor Soichiro Takashima partly followed suit in giving up his ¥3.7m summer bonus last year as part of coronavirus-related budgetary measures. There are also numerous factors to take into account when gauging whether these salaries should be considered as relatively high or low when compared with professions that offer similar pay, as Japanese companies often award higher salaries and senior positions to employees on the basis of time served on their corporate ladder.
Japan continues to struggle to improve its standing in having the widest gender pay gap among the advanced economies, ranked 120th (out of 153) on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2021. For the sole female leaders on our largely male list, Sendai Mayor Kazuko Kori (64) and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (69) could be considered as receiving relatively high salaries, as the average male above the age of 60 earns around double the amount compared to women of the same age bracket.
With a handful of exceptions, the salaries of the mayors are mostly consistent averaging out at around ¥15m. Despite this consistency, it only gives a half-painted picture of a mayor’s total remuneration, as retirement allowances can vary greatly (with some mayors receiving retirement packages worth more than their annual salary), however, this data can only be accurately obtained until after the mayor has actually retired.
By way of comparison to other political offices in Japan, while the relatively new Mayor of Yokohama remains the highest earner in the municipal pay league on ¥19.2m yen, Kanagawa Prefecture in which Japan’s second-largest city sits pays its Governor ¥15.6m a year. Japan’s best-paid prefectural Governor is Motohiro Ono of Saitama, who draws more than Governor Koike of neighbouring Tokyo, receiving ¥17m per annum. Like Koike however, as a former member of Japan’s upper house of parliament (the National Diet), Ono would have received more in total income prior to his gubernatorial election in 2019, with each Diet member paid a monthly salary of ¥1.3m plus summer and winter bonus payments and a tax-free monthly payment of one million Yen to cover ‘reasonable expenses’ (as well as free travel).
Japanese mayors’ annual salaries
Notes: The salaries research was carried out in December 2021. The population figures, which were rounded to the nearest 1,000, reflect the latest available data. Japanese fiscal year: 1 April to 31 March. 1 US$ = 116.15 Yen ¥ (4 January 2022)
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