The number of foreign workers in Japan totaled 1,658,804 as of October last year, up 13.6 percent from a year earlier and marking the highest level on record, government data showed Friday.

It was the 12th straight year of increase as companies continue to struggle with a labor shortage amid Japan's rapidly graying population.

Those of Chinese nationality accounted for about a quarter of the entire foreign workforce at 418,327, followed by Vietnamese at 401,326 and Filipinos at 179,685, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The number of Chinese rose 7.5 percent from a year earlier, while the figures for Vietnamese and Filipinos were up 26.7 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively, the ministry said.

By sector, manufacturers hired the largest number of foreign workers at 483,278, or 29.1 percent of the total, followed by retailers at 212,528, with 266,503 workers categorized under "other services."

Japan created a new visa system on April 1, 2019, to bring more foreign workers into the country amid the acute labor shortage, marking a major policy shift from its traditionally strict immigration rules by formally opening its doors to blue-collar workers.

The headline figure is the highest since comparable data became available in 2008.