Japan Data

Record 2 Million Foreign Workers in Japan as of 2023

Society Work World

Amid a labor shortage in Japan, the number of foreign workers rose above 2 million for the first time in 2023.

A report published by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare shows that the number of foreign workers in Japan in 2023 reached a record high of 2,048,675 as of October 31, for a year-on-year increase of 225,950. This marks the first time for the number of foreign workers to exceed 2 million, reflecting an ongoing labor shortage in Japan.

The year-on-year increase in foreign workers was 12.4%, a significant increase of 6.9 points over the 5.5% year-on-year increase in 2022. By residence status, 595,904 foreign workers came to Japan on a visa related to their profession or technical field (including jobs requiring a high degree of knowledge and skill in such fields as education, research, medicine, law, or business); this is 24.2% higher than the previous year. The next most common visa category was for technical internship trainees, whose numbers have rebounded following a slump during the pandemic years, increasing year-on-year by 20.2%, for a total of 412,501 workers. Those receiving a “specified activities” visa, which includes those on working holidays in Japan, decreased year on year by 2.3%, for a total of 71,676.

Foreign Workers in Japan and Breakdown of Nationalities

An MHLW official noted that “the levels of year-on-year increases in foreign workers across business sectors has generally returned to pre-pandemic levels.” The number of foreign workers in Japan has continued to reach new annual records since 2013, and it is expected that in the years ahead the trend toward these workers compensating for labor shortages will only get stronger.

The breakdown by nationality shows that workers from Vietnam numbered 518,364 (25.3% of the total), followed by China (including Hong Kong and Macao) at 397,918 (19.4%) and the Philippines 226,846 (11.1%). By industry, manufacturing accounted for the largest share at 27%, followed by the service industry at 15.7% and the wholesale and retail sector at 12.9%.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Certified specialized skilled workers from the Philippines in the field of food services learn how to prepare fish from a professional sushi chef (second from the right) during a training course offered by Ginza Onodera, an operator of high-end sushi restaurants on November 15, 2022, in Setagaya, Tokyo. © Jiji.)

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