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Number of foreign nationals Japan 2010-2019

In 2019, approximately 2.93 million residents of foreign nationality were registered in Japan, making up about 2.3 percent of the population. Between 2009 and 2012, the total number of foreign residents decreased by about 100 thousand due to the global financial crisis and the Fukushima catastrophe.

Development of immigration to Japan

Except for a large minority of people of Korean descent who have lived in Japan since the first half of the twentieth century, immigration of people from other countries did not become an issue in Japan until the 1980s, when the economy was in need of more labor. A revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 1990 allowed people of Japanese descent, so-called nikkeijin, to enter the country and work without restrictions. The nikkeijin who entered Japan in the years that followed mainly came from Brazil and other South American countries. Chinese immigration increased as well throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. A breakdown of foreign residents by major nationalities shows that Chinese immigrants overtook Koreans as the largest minority group in 2007. People from Vietnam were the strongest growing minority in the 2010s.

Recent immigration reform

Due to its demographic changes, Japan has a very low unemployment rate. As a consequence, a large share of companies reports labor shortages. The temporary immigration of foreign workers is seen as one of the possible solutions to this problem, next to the increasing labor market participation of women and the elderly. In December 2018, the Japanese parliament passed a major immigration reform that became enacted in April 2019. The reform allowed lower- and semi-skilled workers to enter the country and work in one of 14 different industries suffering from a lack of labor. The vast majority of participants are not allowed to bring their family members and are expected to return to their respective countries after their terms in Japan end. A survey on the planned increase of foreign workers due to labor shortages from August 2019 showed that a majority of respondents in Japan approved of increasing the number of foreign workers.

Number of registered foreign residents living in Japan from 2010 to 2019

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Release date

December 2020



Survey time period

2010 to 2019; as of the end of December of each year

Supplementary notes

Figures until 2011 represent the sum of the number of alien registrations who stayed in Japan with the status of residence eligible for mid to long-term residents. Numbers from 2012 onwards represent the number of foreign residents adding together mid to long-term residents and special permanent residents.
Values have been rounded.

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Statistics on "Demographics in Japan"

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