Vietnamese lead expat growth in Japan

By Nguyen Quy   March 25, 2019 | 04:54 pm PT
Vietnamese lead expat growth in Japan
Office workers walk on a street in Tokyo. The number of Vietnamese expats grew highest among foreigners in Japan last year. Photo by AFP/Yoshikazu Tsuno
The number of Vietnamese expats in Japan grew highest last year, but the rate of illegal immigrants is up too.

The number of Vietnamese residents living in Japan jumped 26.1 percent from a year earlier to 330,835 last year, accounting for 8 percent of foreign nationals in the Northeast Asian country, the Japan Times reported Friday.

Citing data from Japan's Justice Ministry, it said this growth had propelled Vietnam to overtake the Philippines as the third largest minority group in Japan, behind China and South Korea.

The growing presence of Japanese companies in Vietnam has sparked increased interest among younger Vietnamese to study and/or undertake technical training programs in Japan in the hope of landing a well-paid job, the report said.

According to Japan’s Immigration Department, Vietnam surpassed China to become the largest group of technical intern trainees in the country at 164,499 last year, an increase of 30 percent over the previous year.

However this spurt in numbers has also been accompanied by increasing rates of illegal immigrants among the Vietnamese residents. Last year, at least 74,000 foreigners overstayed their visas and illegally stayed on in Japan. South Koreans topped this list, followed by the Vietnamese.

The number of illegal Vietnamese residents found in Japan rose 65 percent year-on-year to 11,131 in 2018, representing the highest increase of illegal foreign residents in the country. Of these, 80 percent came to Japan under the technical trainee program or on student visas, official figures showed.

The reputation of Vietnamese people living in Japan also took a hit following a Japanese police report in 2017 that said they committed more crimes than any other foreign non-permanent residents in the country, accounting for 33 percent of the total number of crimes committed, mainly shoplifting, burglary, visa overstay and illegal work cases.

A police interpreter in the Chubu region of Japan told the Japan Times that around half of Vietnamese trainees and students were not able to afford their tuition fees, prompting them to drop out of school to turn to a life of crime.

Japanese authorities are currently investigating the disappearance of 700 foreign students at a local university, many of them Vietnamese.

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