A record 1.82 million foreigners were working in Japan as of the end of October last year, government data showed Friday, in a 5.5 percent rise from the year before driven primarily by labor shortages as well as foreign students and permanent residents finding employment.

But while the figures continue a string of consecutive new annual highs recorded since 2013, the year-on-year increase was far below the 13.6 percent rise in 2019 on account of the coronavirus's ongoing effects.

A labor ministry official noted that growth has dulled since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

File photo shows people taking an exam to qualify for a visa to work in the construction industry in August 2020 in Shizuoka Prefecture. (Kyodo)

Of the 1,822,725 foreigners in Japan's workforce, Vietnamese nationals accounted for 25.4 percent, the largest proportion, or 462,384 people. They were followed by Chinese nationals at 21.2 percent and 385,848 people, and Filipinos at 11.3 percent and 206,050 people.

Amid a scarcity of labor, a new high of 298,790 workplaces employed foreign workers, an increase of 4.8 percent. Businesses with fewer than 30 workers were the most likely to hire foreign staff, accounting for 61.4 percent of employers.

By residency status, holders of specialist and engineer visas were up 21.7 percent to 479,949 people. Working holders of visas such as permanent residents and spouses of Japanese nationals were up 2.6 percent to 595,207 people.

Among the decreases was a 2.4 percent fall in technical interns to 343,254 people, the second consecutive year of lower numbers. Intake to the controversial program, which offers laborers from specific countries work in exchange for skill development, was temporarily impeded by Japan's strict coronavirus border controls.

Geographically, Tokyo was home to the most foreign workers with 500,089 people, followed by central Japan's Aichi Prefecture with 188,691 individuals, and Osaka Prefecture in the country's west with 124,570 people.

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