The number of foreign students who changed their visa status to work in Japan after graduating from universities or vocational schools hit a record high in 2018, immigration authorities said Wednesday, amid a chronic manpower shortage in the nation.
A total of 25,942 students switched their status of residence last year to one that permits employment in Japan, up 3,523 from a year earlier, according to the Immigration Services Agency.
The figure more than doubled from 2013, apparently reflecting overall growth in the number of overseas students and surging demand from companies for foreign workers to deal with a labor crunch caused by Japan’s aging population and low birthrate.
By visa status type, “engineer, specialist in humanities, international services,” under which foreigners can work as engineers, accountants, language-related and other roles, accounted for 93.2 percent of work visas. “Business manager” comprised 2.2 percent and “professor” 2.1 percent.
Translation and interpretation were the most popular job descriptions, with 23.6 percent of students hired for such work, followed by sales at 13.4 percent, overseas business at 9.0 percent and technology development in the field of data processing at 6.5 percent.
By country and region of origin, Chinese nationals topped the list of students switching to work visas, accounting for 42.0 percent, followed by Vietnamese at 20.2 percent and Nepalese at 11.3 percent. Asian nations accounted for 95.3 percent of the total.
Nepalese students saw the largest increase in employment, increasing 44.8 percent. According to the agency, interest among Nepalese students in studying in Japan has been on the rise in recent years.
In May, the agency revised a Justice Ministry notification to allow foreign nationals who have graduated from universities or completed postgraduate studies in Japan to work at restaurants and retail shops under the “Designated Activities” status of residence.
Previously, graduates of Japanese universities from overseas were not allowed to work in the services sector on the grounds that jobs in the industry were not relevant to their area of expertise.
Meanwhile, the Japan Association of Training Institutions for Certified Care Workers reported in September that the number of foreign students who entered university or vocational school courses specializing in training certified care workers in April totaled 2,037, nearly doubling from 1,142 a year earlier.
The number of Japanese students studying to become certified care workers is declining. The surge in foreign students on such programs is apparently attributable to the creation of a new residence status, in September 2017, that allows foreign students who graduate from such institutions and become certified care workers by acquiring a qualification to work in Japan.
According to the association’s survey, conducted in October and November 2018 and inviting responses from such students, 46.8 percent of them said they came to study in Japan because they wanted to work here.