Life in Japan: Is this country on the cusp of a demographic revolution?

The Mainichi | 21 Dec 23

For those who follow demographic trends in Japan, we live in fascinating times. The number of foreigners living here topped a record 3 million in 2022, up over 11% from the year before. Relatively few of these people come from predominantly Caucasian countries like Ireland or the U.K.: the largest single group (762,000) comes from China, followed by Vietnam and South Korea.

Though still minuscule by rich-country standards, refugee numbers are also rising. Last year, Japan gave just over 200 foreigners refugee status and allowed another 1,760 to stay on humanitarian grounds.

As the media noted, both of those figures are the highest on record since Japan put a system in place for accepting refugees in 1982.

Another notable trend is that more non-Japanese like myself are staying longer. Nearly 42% of those who came to Japan in 2016 have lived here for three years or more, according to a researcher with the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. And then there are the millions of foreign tourists who crowd the post-COVID streets of Tokyo and other cities.

Does all this amount to a revolution in what is considered a famously homogenous country? Not quite.

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