How many Russians live in Japan

Foreigners in Japan - numbers and nationalities at a glance

Japan is not only more popular with tourists than ever before. The number of foreigners living in Japan is also steadily increasing. But which nationalities live here and what kind of visa status do they have? An overview.

There are currently around 2.3 million foreigners living in Japan. This corresponds to a share of 1.8 percent of the total population. Although this number is negligible in an international comparison (in Germany the percentage is 22.5% in comparison), the trend is increasing. Especially against the background of demographic change and the associated decline in population, Japan is urgently dependent on foreign workers. Although there are so far little signs that the Japanese government is willing to give up its previous reluctance to bring in foreign workers, the number of foreigners living in Japan is still rising steadily.

Origin of foreigners in Japan

According to the Japanese Ministry of the Interior (METI), Asians make up almost 83% of the largest group of the 2.38 (as of the end of 2016) million foreigners living in Japan. This is followed by immigrants from South America (10%). Europe and the USA are on par with 3%.

If you look at the immigrants according to their country of origin, China ranks first with 695,522 people (14.5%), followed by South Korea (9.4%), the Philippines (5.1%) and Vietnam (4.2%). At 3.8%, Brazilians make up the largest group of non-Asian immigrants in Japan.

In 2016, around 72,138 Europeans lived in Japan. With 16,454 immigrants, the British make up the largest group among Europeans resident in Japan. France (11,640 people) and Russia (8,306 people) follow in second and third place. Germany comes in fourth with 6,773 immigrants.

Visa categories and residence status

There are currently over 2 million foreign nationals registered in Japan. Registration in Japan is mandatory for all foreigners who stay in the country for more than 90 days.

Over 58% of foreigners living in Japan are permanent residents, spouses or children of Japanese, spouses or children of permanent residents and long-term residents. International students make up around 11.6% of all foreigners and 9.5% immigrated to Japan on a special internship visa.

6.7% of foreigners working in Japan immigrated under the Specialist in Humanities / International Services visa category. This includes, for example, professions such as translator, copywriter, designer, PR specialist, architect or financial advisor.

The number of foreign students and interns is increasing

Analysts attribute the increase in foreigners in Japan to an increase in the number of foreign students and interns. While foreign students usually come to Japan for a period of up to a year and pursue a regular “mini-job” alongside their studies, many interns work for up to 3 years with low wages in Japanese companies.

The Japanese government's controversial internship system

The so-called Technical Internship Training Program was introduced in 1993 as part of Japanese development aid for emerging Asian countries and was supposed to officially promote the transfer of knowledge. In practice, however, the program is used by many companies to bring unskilled workers to Japan and to employ them at low wages. According to the Japanese Immigration Service, a total of 383 violations of the guidelines of the state internship system were reported in 2016.