NIAC foreigner trend survey shows foreigners make up half of population increase, Chinese the largest foreigner group

August 6, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

On August 5, the Nansei Shoto Industrial Advancement Center (NIAC, headed by Mitsuru Omine) published a report analyzing trends in resident foreigners in Okinawa.

From July 2018 to July 2019, Okinawa’s total population (prefectural estimate) rose by 6,153, of which 2,797, accounting for 45.4%, were foreigners.

In other words, nearly one in two people among the population increase were foreigners.

According to the Ministry of Justice, there were 18,025 foreigners living in Okinawa at the end of 2018, an increase of 2,178 over the end of 2017.

This 13.7% increase rate is high, the sixth highest among all Japanese prefectures.

Looking at nationality and region of origin, there are now 2,600 Chinese residents of Okinawa, surpassing Americans (excluding people associated with the U.S. military) as the largest foreigner group in Okinawa.

Okinawa is the only prefecture in Japan experiencing a “natural increase” by means of the birth rate exceeding the death rate, but the population increase rate of Japanese nationals is slowing.

Meanwhile, since 2015, the increase rate of foreigners has been in the double digits, and the proportion of foreigner influx in Okinawa’s population increase is rising.

Senior Researcher Takeshi Kaneshiro, who was involved in the survey, says, “Demand has increased as a result of rising tourism, and this is leading to an increase in resident foreigners.”

By the end of 2018, residents of Chinese nationality in Okinawa had risen to 1.5 times their number of 1,730 at the end of 2012.

Of those, 564 are here under an “engineer/specialist in humanities/international services” visa, meaning they provide services like language interpretation; this is four times the number of residents having such visa at the end of 2012.

This increase is thought to stem from an increase in interpreters and language instructors resulting from an increase in tourists from Chinese-speaking countries.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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