Foreign workers in Japan exceed two million for the first time
The number is even more significant given Japan’s demographic winter, and growing labour shortages. Topping the list are workers from Vietnam with 518,364, or 25.3 per cent of the total.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The number of foreign workers in Japan at the end of last October exceeded two million for the first time, this according to government data released last Friday.
The record number of 2,048,675 is due to the arrival of 225,950 foreign workers, plus 12.4 per cent, in 2023 over the previous year, partly due to the end to Japan’s strict border controls.
Japan's foreign workforce has been growing steadily since 2013, driven by companies in certain sectors in need of foreign nationals to cope with the country's labour shortages.
“With the construction and medical and welfare sectors hiring more (foreign workers), the rate of increase has come close to pre-pandemic levels," a Labour Ministry official said.
By nationality, Vietnamese workers accounted for the largest proportion, at 518,364 people, or 25.3 per cent of the total. But there is a dark side.
Speaking to a Japanese NGO, 36 Vietnamese interns out of 59 said that they have had to resort to contraception to work in Japan, even though the law allows foreign trainees to get pregnant and receive subsidies from their employer before resuming work. Vietnamese interns in Japan are around 10,000.
In addition to Vietnamese, government data show that 397,918 Chinese nationals work in Japan, equal to 19.4 per cent of the total, followed by 226,846 Filipinos (11.1 per cent), and 145,587 Nepalis (7.1 per cent).
Some 595,904 foreign workers are specialist and engineer visa holders, up 24.2 per cent, while the number of interns rose 20.2 per cent, to 412,501, up for the first time in three years.
Although the number of people working under the technical internship programme is up, the government appears inclined to scrap the controversial scheme introduced in 1993 since it is seen by many as a way for Japanese companies to import cheap labour, with the rights of Vietnamese female workers particularly violated.
As for location in Japan, Tokyo is in first place with 542,992 foreign workers, followed by Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, and Osaka Prefecture with 210,159 and 146,384 respectively.