Number of foreign nationals Japan 2012-2021
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 relatively 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.