Japanese Animators “Earn $3/Hour”


The notorious poverty of Japanese animators once again come in for scrutiny, with animators reportedly earning an hourly wage of only $3, less than a burger flipper.

Average incomes for anime industry employees are said to be pathetic even by Japanese standards – actual animators received an average annual wage of ¥1,050,000 ($10,000). Artists received ¥2,320,000, whilst performers could expect only ¥3,330,000 and even directors only received ¥4,950,000.

Looking at the results by age reveals it is most probably seniority and not merit which is the primary determinant of wages, a practice which became entrenched in Japan in the post-war period and still dominates the labour market – those in their twenties received an average of ¥1,100,000, those in their thirties ¥2,130,000, whilst those aged 40-60 found their earnings peaking at a meagre ¥4,000,000.

Actually dividing this income by hours worked (Japanese companies not infrequently demand massive amounts of unpaid overtime) reveals an even more pitiful truth – the average hourly wage for animators is estimated at ¥298 ($3), that for artists ¥689, and that for directors ¥1,412.

For reference, McDonald’s employees in Tokyo can expect an hourly wage of ¥1,000.

Japan’s plunging marriage and birth rates have often been blamed on these kind of hiring practices – employees in their twenties and thirties increasingly report that girlfriends, let alone wives, are out of their reach. The situation would appear to be even more aggravated in the anime industry.

The survey also asked about job satisfaction – unsurprisingly, 62% reported their love of drawing was the main motivator, as opposed to other factors such as money. 16.6% reported grave dissatisfaction with their work, 37% “dissatisfaction” and only 3.5% were “very satisfied.” 70% reported dissatisfaction with their wages.

With studio output declining recently it seems unlikely matters will improve.

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    Comment by Anonymous
    01:31 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    This article fails to address one very important open question. Where does the money actually go? If a show is moderately successful and pulls in a fair amount of sponsor support, high ratings, live event ticket sales, promotional items sales, and eventually DVD and merchandise sales, you would expect the creators to get quite a bit of that money after operational expenses are paid. It's painfully obvious to me that someone in this chain is getting a very unbalanced portion of the earnings for a successful show.

    I would love to know how the anime business is structured. It must be very, very different from the software business.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:11 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Animator in my country earn less then 3$ >_>

    Realy suck right

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:52 31/07/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    same here, i only earn $0.50/hour here and actually more sux than $3/hour.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:05 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    In my country they even earn less than 3$ >_>

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:05 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Piracy is not the problem. It's the studios. They're trying to squeeze too much work out of each animator, resulting in too much overtime.

    Though speaking of piracy... It's a similar factor which contributes to low sales in other areas, trying to squeeze too much out of a market. In Japan, people can afford to buy a lot more manga for their dollar.

    Don't believe me? Okay, let's put it this way. Walk into a bookstore like Chapters with, say, fifteen bucks. You'll walk out with a single volume and enough change to buy a small, overpriced coffee for three bucks. Walk into a bookstore in Japan with, say, fifteen hundred yen, and you're walking out of the store with three tankobon, the equivalent of a stateside volume.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:38 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    True that, I wanted negima season 2 but they slpit a 26 EPISODE SEASON INTO TWO PARTS for like 45 bucks a part. So if I wanted 26 episodes of a anime I liked I would spend 90 bucks. I'm glad they released it as one whole part but I have to wait (I find girl meets girl in omnibus form ^_^)

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:34 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    As long there are plenty of retards willing to do the job for these wages it will stay that way...

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:35 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hopefully this situation will ease down a bit when TV become connected with internet.
    When that happens, studios won't have to rely on those crappy importers to get their animes abroad as they all will have their own websites to stream those series.

    Avatar of alex251
    Comment by alex251
    03:11 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You forgot one thing...they are Japanese - means 1) it will be blocked for people overseas , 2) they won't sub it, it will be only in Japanese ...no win - no win situation

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:35 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    you forgot about dubs. Subs are only for a niche market (People here).

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:48 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    These fucking idiots. There's an entire fucking WORLD of people that want your product, but you only worry about selling to other Japanese. The first company to throw off the xenophobic bullshit and *embrace* a world-wide audience via the internet will be richer than fuck. Let your fans know that you make animation for everybody-make people all over the world want to give you money for your product by establishing a relationship with them.

    As an capitalist American it breaks my heart to see a product with such appeal so poorly marketed and distributed.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:48 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Haha, the guy directing the anime only earns 1.5x more than some guy who flips the burgers and wipes the tables.

    Such crummy pay. I laugh at those who say, "But this is for the dream!" Yeah, right. Go work in a job that pays $3 per hour for a few years, then come back and talk about living the dream.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:11 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    How the hell do those people survive the days with $3 an hour? That's saying everything in japan is becoming cheap which it isn't.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:19 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I wonder where all the money from DVDs, BDs, posters and so on flows.

    Theres only one word coming to my mind: Slavedriver...

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:12 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    According to a blog I once read, this is caused by the fact that money paid per cell being static for both colourers and drawers- While computer colouring has made colouring easier, it has made drawing harder. Thus, colourers get decent pay and animators are grossly underpaid.

    Comment by Dark Mage
    02:42 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    So where does all that money spent on DVDs and Blueray discs go?

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:23 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    If you bought the stuff in America then the money goes to the American industry.

    People just don't seem to understand that when America license an anime they pay the Japanese industry to use the product. After that the Japanese will not get any money from the product sold in America.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:05 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    >If you bought the stuff in America then the money goes to the American industry.

    You make that sound like a bad thing. God forbid investors, producers, and retailers make some money from releasing legitimate products.

    >After that the Japanese will not get any money from the product sold in America.

    Incorrect. Most licenses require both an advance, and royalties based on units sold, or a schedule, or when set sales milestones are met. Licenses also have termination dates, so when a US licensee is not performing to expectation, the Japanese licensor may choose to let the license expire, or refuse licenses on later episodes.

    Comment by Dark Mage
    08:31 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well that would explain a lot since Hollywood is well known for downright predatory practices.

    Avatar of Aero
    Comment by Aero
    03:09 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Being overly xenophobic and having low replacement rates, i.e. less babies, will make japan a country where over two thirds of its populace is of retirement age in the decades to come. With such sad facts ahead of them, it's just normal for industries to start and favoring "seniority" over anything else...

    Avatar of mtallmen_184
    Comment by mtallmen_184
    02:11 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hooray for minimum wage!

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:30 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    here in mexico you get like 4$ for 8 ours of work, so i think this is a sweet deal

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:12 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Working with that low minimum wages feels wrong, heck it is wrong. *sighs* I'm surprised most animators is pulling through with their love for drawing, even though they know its a bit unfair to be working with little wages they've been given. I just don't got much to say about this.

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:13 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wow in Europe we earn 6-10€(8-13$) per hour
    3$...Couldnt even imagine how i should live with that..Oo

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:33 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    3$ a hour can't even pay the gas bill....
    However you can get a decente meal in Portugal for just 5€=8$

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:03 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well, one can see why some of the animators might be lacking motivation on quality of work...

    Now I gotta wonder how much a miner or construction worker in a third-world country would make in a month?

    Avatar of Coburn64
    Comment by Coburn64
    22:37 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Okay, so this is just stupid.

    Getting $3 a hour is crap. When I was working, I got about $70 a day, about $9.50 a hour. Mind you, I was working in the IT industry.

    I admit that I do torrent anime, but I would possibly stop doing that and actually help the companies recover lost profits if the companies that do the animation actually do English/Japanese subtitles. So, when I buy the DVD, I can pop it into my computer, load up MPlayer/Windows Media Player, set Subtitles to ON and in English, get some popcorn and watch a season of K-ON in English. Or they ship a English Dub for Western countries.

    Yes, I know it's easy to say, but seriously, I would. If DVDs where $30 a pop, sure, I'd go out and buy DVD copies of K-ON, Lucky Star and Strike Witches. Heck, pop a season on Pay-TV western services like Foxtel and Austar if Japan's anime industry needs some cash in a hurry. I look at prices for getting DVDs imported from Japan and they are like $100 AUD. Too expensive IMO.

    I assume all profits from the figmas and nenodroids don't go back to the artists/designers either?

    I'd be mad if K-ON turned into some scribble.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:15 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    In scandinavian countries like Denamrk and Sweden the minimum salary is around 2000Yen/hour ... more than 60 year anime director ...

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    No comment on the taxes or unemployment rate?

    Avatar of erochichi
    Comment by erochichi
    02:54 04/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    1. Taxes are not a problem, if you get something useful for it. Not, like, when 35% of tax revenue goes to military.

    2. Just now, 5 - 9 % in 4 countries. With good unemployment insurances for all. During last 25 years unemployment has been under 4 % average.

    I don`t say it`s perfect, but tax money can in fact be spent wisely.

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:57 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    in video game industry -in france- graphic artists are usually barely paid better than testers, though they are often here to compensate the project's lack of consistence.

    because graphics are regarded as a lowly manual task that anybody could take up, describe or explain -from a manager point of view. like game design ("oh.. you just write down stuff, anybody could do that, after all")

    plus it's a "dream job" and bosses like to assume you're willing to work only for glory. which isn't quite false, i admit :)

    Avatar of Tokeijikaku
    Comment by Tokeijikaku
    22:59 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I got paid more working for my fucking mom. At age 11.

    Avatar of erochichi
    Comment by erochichi
    02:49 04/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wonder what you´re paid for...

    Avatar of Tokeijikaku
    Comment by Tokeijikaku
    06:25 04/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Helping around in the store.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:04 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    TV animation industry in general demands unpaid overtime, not just in japan but north america as well. Budgets are shrinking everywhere, and they have x amount of dollars to deliver a product. Don't blame the studios, blame the producers and the networks who pay to have these shows made.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:02 02/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    if they do what the company that makes grand tarismo did (puting amenities like a awesome media center a kitchen showers and a laundromat) and letting them sleep under there desks $3 an hour would go a lot further

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:35 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's a labor of love. Nothing else could keep them in the business.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:53 04/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Most of animaters are women.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:22 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Even though we're all sympathetic, I doubt we can do anything to change the state of things. As a lot of people already mentioned, buying DVDs and ceasing fansubbing won't help. And there's the problem of animators actually WILLING to work with such low wages.

    Seriously, they should all go on strike, like the writers of Hollywood.

    Avatar of MelonOtaku
    Comment by MelonOtaku
    15:26 03/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    damn it man this sux. i wish i could buy dvds but there so damn expensive and not worth it. also it takes like 2yrs to get anything over here, is k-on! season 1 even here yet?

    by the time i get to go 2 japan anime will be dead or crap. -_-

    Avatar of Yuuki
    Comment by Wisteria Berlitz
    06:53 04/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Why the creators of Gintama said "Anime is hardwork and the pay is low"

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:58 08/07/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Makes you wonder....where is all the Otaku allowances going when they buy DVD sets for hundreds of dollars?

    Comment by GreasyWeeabooVirgin
    17:58 15/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wow, 3 bucks an hour to do essentially nothing of value for society. Good deal. C:

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:42 18/07/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    the only thing that apport to society is entretainament.
    just that

    Avatar of djchayan
    Comment by djchayan
    12:35 14/09/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    same as i used to make on a liquor store in US believe it or not...and even got asked why i quit...

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:21 14/09/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    No wonder some animators take drugs ( cf. naruto shippuden)

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:41 05/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    Comment by Anonymous
    14:55 04/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Nothing to do with pirating never!
    Its all the evil companies fault they make no profit from people who dont spend a cent on their products.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:48 05/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    QUICKLY EVERYONE! LET'S ALL FEEL SYMPATHETIC ALL AT ONCE!!!!! Really there are people who are paid less than that throughout the world hint hint 3rd world countries.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:16 05/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    comparing the absolute wages of impoverished countries to developed countries is one of the dumbest things ever to grace the propagandist scene. How much is the cost of living in a 3rd world country compared to the cost in Japan? (hint: it's not the same)

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:29 05/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    If you know how to save cash and cut costs then 1$ a day is sufficient for food already... though in the Philippines costs rose that we need $3 just to get by for a day....

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