Asics Gel-Nimbus 18 Black Silver Blue Mens Running Shoes Sneakers T600N-9993 Farruq Fahlevi, left, and Muhamad Irvan Gustian, both from Indonesia, work on a farm harvesting cabbages in Ibaraki Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
Cover Story

Famous for its resistance to immigration, Japan opens its doors

Number of foreign workers doubles in five years as nation faces labor crisis

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"I've chosen the construction industry because the work involves lots of communication and helps improve my Japanese," Hoang said, in fluent Japanese. He eventually wants to work as a translator in Japan, and hopes that his fiancee will be able to join him there one day.

His employer, 2016 Nike Free Socfly SD 3.0 Mens Running Shoes Cool Grey On Cheap Sale,Nike Trainerendor Shoes Blue Force Sail Pink Pow Black For Men2016 Nike Mens Basketball Sneakers Lebron 13 Black Silver Pink,, said trainees like Hoang are indispensable for his company of 32. "Foreign trainees learn faster than Japanese," Maeda said. "They are more serious, more hardworking, and take fewer days off. They are keen to learn and work hard for money. Air Griffey Max 3 III Shoes For Men in 33063,FC247 Bomba II Soccer Cleat Blue Lagoon White White For MenAir Jordan Spizike 3.5 Retro Mens Shoes Blue Online,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Air Max 2011 Netty Mens Shoes Discount white black,FC247 Elastico Finale III Indoor Competition Soccer Shoes Volt White Wolf Grey Black For MenAir Max 90 Hyperfuse Prm Mens Shoes Shopping Online Grey Black White,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

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Without fanfare, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has steadily loosened Japan's once tightly controlled visa policy, resulting in an almost doubling of the number of foreign workers in Japan to 1.28 million over the last five years. In its latest move, Abe's government is expected to create a new class of  five-year work permits for unskilled workers in hopes of attracting more than 500,000 new overseas workers by 2025. The new guidelines, to be finalized in June, will ease language requirements for foreign workers in construction, Buy Cheap Nike Lebron 11 2014 Elite Grey Red Black Mens Shoes,Nike Project BA Shoes Black Gum Light Brown White Gym Red For MenBuy Cheap Nike Lebron 12 2015 White Black Mens Shoes,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Cheap Nike Kyrie 1 2015 Black Red Basketball Shoes Sale,Nike Project BA Shoes Anthracite Pure Platinum White Dusty Cactus For MenCheap Sale Air Jordan 11 XI Retro Mens Shoes For Winter Black White Yellow,. "My government has no intention of adopting a so-called immigration policy," Abe said in February.

Yet the total number of foreign residents in Japan has grown 20% in the last three years, reaching 2.6 million in 2017, or 2% of the total population. In Tokyo, one in eight residents who came of age this year were foreigners.

"Anyone wandering around Japan, from Hokkaido to Tokyo to Okinawa, knows that there is growing diversity in schools and the workplace," said Jeff Kingston, a professor at Temple University Japan. "Chrismas Gift Edition Air Jordan 9 IX Retro Mens Shoes Online Discount Red,Adidas Running Questar Elite Shoes Solar Red Black Light Grey For MenDiscount Nike Air Jordan 9 Kids White Cool Grey,."

Discount Authentic Mens Nike Air Max 90 White/Dark Grey/Black/Yellow Foreign workers have become a part of everyday life in Japan, yet public debate on immigration remains limited. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

While foreign workers are now part of everyday life in Japan -- making ready-to-eat foods in convenience stores, growing fruits and vegetables on farms and sorting packages for delivery companies -- public debate has been limited.FIFA World Cup Brazil Nike Magista Opus FG soccer boots yellow pink black,Nike Lab Gyakusou Lunaracer 3 Running Shoes Team Red Gym Red Black Pine Light Charcoal For MenFragment Design X Nike Sock Dart SP Lode Shoes Classic Nike Training Mens Sneakers Fluorescent Green Camouflage,. As a result, Abe's position -- despite its apparent contradictions -- has faced no strong pushback from the public or politicians yet.

Many Japanese look at the deep divisions in the West over immigration and conclude that a more open policy should be avoided. Yet the steady relaxation of migration rules has not led to the social fissures seen elsewhere.

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With Japan facing its tightest labor market in decades, the business community would like Abe to go further. The unemployment rate stands at 2.5%, the lowest level in 25 years. There are now 1.59 jobs for every job seeker, the highest ratio since 1974.

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Given Japan's demographics -- it is the world's oldest advanced economy -- the labor shortage is only going to intensify. The nation's working-age population, defined as those aged between 15 and 64, is expected to decrease more than 40% to 45 million over the next 50 years. By contrast, those aged 75 or older, dubbed the "super-elderly," are projected to make up more than a quarter of the population.

Cabbages and car parts

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Nike Air Jordan 3 III Cement Mens Shoes Yellow,Nike Flex Run 2015 Running Shoes Lyon Blue Deep Royal Blue White For MenNike Air Jordan Cement 3 III Retro Mens Shoes White Black Red,, the government's trainee program has allowed them to hold on to their livelihoods.

Among them is Kota Hirohara, 56, who raises cabbages on his small farm. On a recent May day, two Indonesian trainees were harvesting Hirohara's cabbages by hand with large nakiri, or vegetable knives. Hirohara says his farm is not big enough to need an expensive cabbage harvesting machine.

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The two men, Muhamad Irvan Gustian and Farruq Fahlevi, both 21, can pick as many as 4,000 cabbages during their eight-hour workday. They also weed the fields, Nike Air Jordan X 10 Doernbecher Mens Shoes New Online Black Red,Nike Free 3 0 Flyknit Running Shoes Black Dark Atomic Teal Mineral Teal Black For MenNike Air Max 2014 Running Shoes Online Blue Orange,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

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The workers at Shigeru make instrument panels used in the Outback, Impreza and other models. The company hires Japanese part-timers in response to changes in demand, but Masayoshi Tabata, general manager, says foreign trainees are more dependable. "Part-timers quit when they find better-paying jobs. Trainees stay for three years."

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Trainees are discouraged from going back to their country before finishing the three-year term or from having a child, and they cannot bring their spouse on the visa.

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International pressure and media reports led to a law change in November 2017, allowing only certified organizations to participate in the trainee program. Criminal penalties were introduced for mistreatment of workers while a new government agency has been given a legal mandate to conduct random inspections. A whistleblower system has also been created that allows cases of abuse to be reported via email, a telephone hotline or a dedicated website. Most trainees have smartphones with them and have Wi-Fi access in their dormitories.

Fast-track system for tech workers

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At Rakuten's Japanese headquarters in a Tokyo suburb, a quarter of its roughly 6,000 employees are foreigners. The company hires about 400 engineers every year, of which 70% are non-Japanese, mainly Indians and Chinese.

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Amit Agrawal, a 35-year-old engineer from India, is one of those who were hired by Rakuten.

"Most Japanese companies don't accept non-Japanese speakers. Rakuten is one of the companies that accept non-Japanese-speaking people," said Agrawal, who works in a massive open room that is almost entirely filled by foreign workers. Wholesale Air Max 87 Mens Shoes Cheap Black Red Purple,Adidas Originals C 10 Shoes Red For MenNike Air Huarache Light Black/White/White/Gum Light Brown Running Shoes for MAN,, via a loyalty point system.

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Family ties

But IT workers are an exception. Most others, even skilled workers, face significant hurdles to settling in Japan.

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One of the biggest difficulties has to do with restrictions on allowing family members to accompany workers -- a move designed to prevent permanent immigration. Though they are starting to loosen for a small number of the most skilled workers, such restrictions may limit Japan's allure as a destination for people with sought-after training. 

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Abud was able to come to Japan through this program, but the hurdles were high. Only those with a four-year-college degree and a Philippine qualification as a caregiver were accepted. New Balance MD1500 Black Trainers for MAN,Sneakers H168 HXM1680Q5907UNB612 Casual Shoes For MenASICS GEL-Lyte III Purple/Black Sneakers for MAN,.  

She sends most of her salary to her parents and sisters back in the Philippines. Her younger sister has a daughter who is going on to private school, and Abud's earnings contribute to her niece's education.

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But she and her husband see possible obstacles ahead for their lives in Japan. Her visa allows her husband to work only up to 28 hours a week, which could pose problems if they start a family.

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