Immigration to Japan

In 2018, foreign workers in Japan was 1.4 million, accounting for 2.23% of total workforce.

Note: For the definition of categories, please see Technical Note at the end of this page.

Recent data trend

In recent years, with growing concern over the shortage of labor force, the government has taken active steps to bring in more workers from overseas. In 2018, the number of foreign workers stood at 2.6 million, increasing 6.6% from the year before. Between 2013 and 2018, the number of foreign workers rose twofold, reaching close to 1.46 million. Though the number of workers from overseas may have increased rapidly, they still account for roughly 2% of the total workforce in Japan. Thus, indica...

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Brief Overview of "Immigration to Japan"

Japan has been one of the most closed when it comes to accepting foreigners into their society. According to an OECD survey, foreign born or native born with foreign parents accounted for mere 2% of Japan's population. The average figure for OECD countries is 18%. However, with its rapidly aging demography, Japan seems to be slowly starting to open up to the concept of foreigners coming to Japan to work.

There are two important source of statistics on immigration to Japan. "Number of Foreign Residents" statistics are published by the Ministry of Justice. Breakdown by nationalities and by types of visa is available. This statistics cover both working and non-working foreign nationals in Japan. The other important statistics, "Employment of Foreign Workers" come from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the reliable dataset is available only after 2008. Breakdowns by nationalities, types of visa and by industry are available.

Unfortunately, neither statistics are readily available in English. Below are links to the official government sites in Japanese.

Statistics on Foreign Residents (Ministry of Justice, in Japanese only)

Reports on Employments of Foreigners (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, in Japanese only)

Foreign Workers in Japan by Nationality and by Type of Visa

Note: For the definition of categories, please see Technical Note at the end of this page.

Foreign Workers in Japan by Industry and by Type of Visa

Technical note

The categorizations of types of visas are very complex in the original data-set released by the Japanese government. Moreover, there have been frequent changes in the categorization, especially for the Foreign Worker statistics published by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Moreover, neither of these statistics are published in English in a consistent manner. In order to facilitate an easier understanding of the dataset, we have reorganized the statistics into the following 5 categories.

-Work Visa: As of 2016, there are 16 types of visas that fall into this category such as "Professor", "Journalist", "Engineer", "Business Manager" and such. Typically, you need to apply for a new visa when you change jobs.

-Trainee Visa:  As of 2016, there are 5 types of trainee visas we designated into this category. Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), a government affiliated organization, administer the vast majority of trainees in Japan.
   
-Student Visa: There is only one type of visa for students.

-Permanent and Family Visa: We designated 5 type of visas into this category. "Permanent Resident", "Special Permanent Resident", "Long Term Resident", "Spouse of Japanese National", "Spouse of Permanent Resident". "Special Permanent Resident" are mostly Korean and Chinese who lost Japanese nationality after the WW2. Majority of "Long Term Resident" are Japanese, Brazilian and their family. Holders of "Permanent and Family Visa" do not have restriction to work.
Please note that families of other less permanent visa holders are included in "Other Visa" and not among the "Permanent and Family Visa" category.
 
 -Other Visa: We designated all other Visas into this category. The largest among them are "Dependent" who are family of non-permanent visa holders. "Working holiday" holders are also in this category. There are a number of special visas created under policy initiatives. For example, a new type of visa for Nurse and Caregivers created under Japan's Economic Partnership Agreement with Philippines are included into Other Visa category. While there is much fanfare around these newly created visa, their numbers are small.