Japan's plunging population adds urgency to immigration talk
Nikkei -- Apr 14
Japan's population fell for the seventh straight year in 2017, with the native population dropping at a record pace, while the influx of foreign residents forestalled an even steeper decline.

The trend highlights a reality that few Japanese policymakers mention in public -- that foreigners are rapidly emerging as a key component of Japan's tight labor market.

The number of Japanese fell by 372,000 to 124.64 million as of October, according to data released Friday by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The decline exceeded the 299,000 drop in 2016 and marked the fastest slide since the government began keeping records in 1950.

The drop was partly offset by an influx of foreign residents, whose number increased by 145,000 to 2.05 million as of October, as a serious labor shortage continued to push up demand for foreign workers. The figure has nearly doubled over the past 25 years, according to the Internal Affairs Ministry data.

Given Japan's low birthrate -- annual births in 2016 fell below 1 million for the first time since the government began collecting data in 1899 -- the decline in the native-born population is expected to accelerate. Japan's working age population is now only 60% of the total, down 10 percentage points from 1992.

While immigration remains broadly unpopular in Japan, policymakers are gradually expanding foreign participation in the labor market. Nikkei recently reported that the government is mulling a plan to allow foreign trainees to remain in the country for an additional five years. The new residency status will be introduced as early as April 2019.

News source: Nikkei
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