4,943 foreign employees work in Okinawa Prefecture
According to employment figures derived from the national census in 2015, the number of foreign employees in Okinawa increased by 50 percent compared to the previous census five years earlier. The latest figure shows that 4,943 foreign nationals are working here, not counting military and other SOFA personnel.
The total labor force in Okinawa Prefecture was 629,394 that is a decrease of 3.2% from five years earlier. The number of men in the labor force has been decreasing while that of women has increased.
Among foreigners working in Okinawa, Americans were the largest group with 1,178 working in the prefecture that is 23.8% of the foreign workers. The second largest group was Chinese with 834 (16.9%), followed by people from the Philippines who numbered 650 (13.1%).
According to figures of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the largest groups of foreign employees in other prefectures are South Koreans, North Koreans or Chinese. Only in Okinawa Americans are the largest group. Officials say the reason may be the large U.S. military presence here. “There are many marriages between local women and U.S. military men who after getting out of service or retiring decide to stay and work here,” an official at the ministry’s Okinawa Bureau said.
Many companies, especially in service and construction industries, complain that it’s getting difficult to find workers, and would like to hire more foreign workers whenever possible. However, the current visa regulations make it very burdensome and expensive to hire them straight from overseas.