Number of Foreigners Living in Japan Hits Record High For 7th Year in a Row

The number of foreigners residing in Japan as of the end of June 2019 was 2,282,416, up 3.6% compared to the end of 2018. This is according to data recently released by Immigration Services Agency of Japan. This was a slowdown compared to the 7% annual growth rate in 2018, but still represented seven consecutive years of growth. Resident foreigners account for 2.24% of Japan’s total population.

By Visa Status

Resident foreigners are those staying in Japan on mid- to long-term visas (such as work visas), foreign exchange students, and permanent residents. People visiting Japan for three months or less are not counted as residents. Looking at the breakdown by status-of-residence, permanent residents accounted for 783,513 (34.3%), technical trainees for 367,709 (16.1%), and foreign exchange students for 336,847 (14.8%).

As of the end of June, there were only 20 people living in Japan under the new Specified Skills visa that was implemented this April in order to allow more blue-collar workers into the country; but the Agency said that 376 were certified as being qualified to apply for the visa as of the end of September.

Significant increase in highly-skilled workers and professionals

One key takeaway from the data is the increasing number of foreigners qualifying for residence under the “Engineer/Humanities/International Activities” visa (year-on-year growth of 13.6%) and Highly-Skilled Professional visas (17.9%). Since 2016, the number of people entering Japan under these two visa statuses has increased by about 100,000.

The government has made a concerted effort to attract highly-educated and highly-skilled professional to Japan by introducing such measures as an expedited path to getting permanent residency.

By Country

Continuing a long-term trend, the majority of resident foreigners in Japan are from China (786,2441, 34.4% ), South Korea (451,534, 19.8%)), and Viet Nam (371,755, 16.3%), with the population of Vietnamese increasing at the highest rate (12.4%).

Concentrated in Major Metro Areas

Perhaps not surprisingly, the resident foreigner population of Japan is concentrated in major metro areas, where company headquarters and large employers are located. The headquarters of Toyota, for example, is located in Aichi (City) and many of its cars are manufactured in its various Toyota City (Aichi) factories. There are also many automotive parts manufacturers in Aichi prefecture who employ foreign workers.

The following is the breakdown by city and prefecture:

  1. Tokyo, 20.6% of resident foreigners
  2. Aichi Prefecture, 9.6%
  3. Osaka Prefecture, 8.7%
  4. Kanagawa Prefecture, 8.1%
  5. Saitama Prefecture, 6.7%
  6. Chiba Prefecture, 5.7%
  7. Hyogo Prefecture, 4.0%
  8. Other, 36.6%

Support Services for Foreign Residents

Prior to the implementation of the Specified Skills visa in April 2020, the government recognized that numerous issues exist for workers and families coming to live in Japan and introduced over one hundred policy measures to help ease their transition. Another goal is to help foreigners “co-exist” with Japanese. These measures include things like Japanese language support, help opening bank accounts, housing introductions for foreigners coming to rural areas, financial support to pay rent, and one-stop consultation centers.

However, media reports make it clear that issues remain, and it is unlikely that there are any quick solutions to this long-term change to the population of Japan.

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Source: Nikkei, October 25, 2019

Lead image: Wikimedia Commons