A record number of Japanese nationals are living abroad as permanent residents, now exceeding the half-million mark, according to the Foreign Ministry's latest survey. 

The accumulated total of people who have moved overseas and become  permanent residents as of Oct. 1, 2022, was about 557,000, the ministry reported.

“Young people are at the center of the movement,” said Tsukasa Sasai, a professor at Fukui Prefectural University, who specializes in population issues. “It will leave an impact on various aspects of our society.”

The rise of Japanese living overseas will affect the falling population in Japan, Sasai added.

The latest figure was released in late December.

There were about 1,309,000 Japanese living abroad for longer than three months, the survey said.

Of these, 751,000 were long-term stayers, down 56,000 from the previous year. 

It marked the third consecutive year of decline, which is believed to stem from fewer students and businesspeople being stationed overseas with their families because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of permanent residents has been on the rise for 20 consecutive years, however.

The latest figure was up 20,000 from the previous year.

Such a jump was the second biggest in the past five years. The latest figure was also up 140,000 from 10 years ago.

North America led the regions with the most Japanese permanent residents, with 274,000.

There were 90,000 permanent residents in Western Europe and 76,000 in Oceania, including Australia.

The three regions accounted for 80 percent of the permanent resident population.

“It appears more and more people find North America and Western Europe comparatively more attractive than Japan in terms of wages, work environment, social diversity and tolerance,” Sasai said.

Sixty-two percent of the permanent residents were women. The percentage was 55 percent 30 years ago.

The ministry did not disclose detailed data such as their occupations and age, making it difficult to analyze why the number rose.

However, it is believed that many have chosen to live overseas in search of a better life and better jobs, and that international marriages and childbirth overseas also contributed to the rise in the number of permanent residents. 

The qualifications to obtain permanent residency vary for each country, such as the level of language proficiency and income.

However, it is generally difficult to obtain permanent residency in any country.

For example, those wishing to apply can do so only after having worked in the country for a few years, sometimes as many as 10 years.

Therefore, the rise in the number of permanent residents is related to Japanese who began living abroad long term some time ago.

(This article was written by Kyoko Horiuchi, Emi Hirai and Shin Matsuura.)