TOKYO -- An all-time high of 25,942 foreign students in Japan found work at Japanese companies and changed their residence status last year, the Immigration Services Agency announced on Wednesday.
The figure was up by 3,523 from 2017, marking the eighth straight annual increase and the highest since record keeping began in 1992.
Asian countries accounted for 95.3% of the students turned workers. The largest proportion came from China, at 10,886, followed by Vietnam at 5,244, Nepal at 2,934 and South Korea at 1,575. By growth rate, Nepalese students led the way, with their tally rising 44.8% on the year.
The government said more international students are simply coming to Japan. This gives companies a larger pool of foreign talent to choose from, at a time when the country is facing an acute shortage of domestic workers.
Overall, translation and interpretation jobs accounted for the biggest percentage of the hires -- 23.6%. Sales and marketing positions made up 13.4%, while employment in companies' overseas operations came to 9.0% and technology development (information processing) accounted for 6.5%.
The number of applications for residence status changes rose by 2,998 from a year earlier to 30,924, with an 83.9% approval rate.
In April, the government revised the Immigration Control Act to introduce a new status of residence called "Specified Skilled Worker." Foreign nationals who pass skills and Japanese-language tests and are granted the new status can work in 14 industries suffering from serious labor shortages, including nursing care and restaurants.
Visa holders with this status can reside in Japan for a total of five years.
Under the new system, the government expects to accept a maximum of about 345,000 foreign workers over the next five years.