Record 3.4 million foreign residents in Japan as work visas rise

Kyodo News - 4/16/2024 11:40:00 AM

The number of foreign nationals residing in Japan hit a record high of over 3.4 million in 2023, government data showed Friday, with employment-related visas seeing significant growth amid the country's efforts to address its acute labor shortage.

As of the end of December, 3,410,992 foreigners resided in Japan, up 10.9 percent from the previous year to mark a record high for the second consecutive year, according to the Immigration Services Agency.

The number of specified skilled workers jumped 59.2 percent to around 208,000, while trainees under Japan's technical internship program grew 24.5 percent to around 404,000 to approach the record high level marked in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, the data showed.

The specified skilled workers visa, which allows the holder to immediately take on jobs in designated industries without the need for training, was introduced in 2019 in response to Japan's severe labor shortage resulting from its declining birthrate, with the aim of attracting foreign workers.

Meanwhile, permanent residents, who made up the largest group by residential status, stood at around 891,000, up 3.2 percent. Engineers, specialists in humanities and international services, including foreign language teachers, rose 16.2 percent to around 362,000.

By nationality, Chinese accounted for the largest population of foreign residents at around 821,000, followed by Vietnamese at around 565,000 and South Koreans at around 410,000.

The number of foreign arrivals, excluding reentry by residents, increased more than six-fold from the previous year to around 25.83 million following the easing of border restrictions associated with COVID-19.

The number has now recovered to over 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

In 2023, over 9.62 million Japanese nationals left the country for reasons including tourism, which was more than triple the figure from a year earlier but still remained under half of pre-pandemic levels.

There were 79,113 foreign nationals who overstayed their visas in Japan as of Jan. 1, 2024, an increase of 8,622 compared to the year before. Vietnamese made up the largest group at approximately 15,000.