More foreigners are working in Japan than ever before, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. At the end of October 2013, the number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504, up 5.1 percent from the year before. The number was the highest since employers started regularly submitting reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007.

Politicians of many different stripes will surely seek to exploit this new data for rhetorical purposes, but the increase results from many complex and interwoven factors.

First, the increase stemmed from a slight improvement in employment, though there was not a great change in all areas and surely not for all workers.