Asics Gel-Storm Men's Running Shoes SZ 11 Black White Blue T3N0Q 9002 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 Mens Basketball Sneakers Lebron 13 Gold Black Purple,Nike SB Blazer Low GT Skateboarding Shoes Cargo Khaki Gum Light Brown Black Bamboo For MenAi Max Terra Ninety Mens TN Shoes white blue,, 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 Jordan AJ V.2. Low Mens Shoes 2014 Cyan,Nike Free SB Skateboarding Shoes Fortress Green Black Gym Red For MenAir Max 2011 Leather Mens Shoes Wholesale white green,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Air Max 90 Mens Shoes Cheap On Sale Gray Black,Nike SB Dunk Low Pro Skateboarding Shoes Gym Red Gum Light Brown Sail For MenAir Max 90 Mens Shoes Cheap On Sale White Red Gray,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Discount Authentic Mens Nike Air Max 87 Shoes White/Blue/Black Vietnamese trainee Dang Ngoc Hoang works at a building site in Tokyo. With Japan's construction workforce rapidly aging, new sources of labor are needed. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

The demand for construction workers is intensifying before the 2020 Olympics, Air Max 90 Mens Shoes Cheap Wholesale White Silver Red Black,Nike Lunar Stefan Janoski Shoes Cargo Khaki Gum Medium Brown Black For MenAIR MAX LTD 01 Mens Shoes Cheap Unique White Black Blue,, the program has boomed in recent years -- and is one reason that the number of foreign workers in Japan has nearly quadrupled over the last decade.

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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 Drop 15 Pairs Of Super Ltd Edition Mvix R9 Chrome Green,Nike Lab Gyakusou Lunaracer 3 Running Shoes Team Red Gym Red Black Pine Light Charcoal For MenCheap Nike Air Jordan 4 Kids Red Black Grey,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Cheap Nike Zoom Soldier IX 9 2015 Black White Basketball Shoes Sale,Adidas Running Ascent Trail Shoes Core Black Metallic Silver Light Onix For MenCheap Sale Air Max 90 Hyperfuse Prm Mens Shoes Shopping Online White Blue,. "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. "Deal Nike Air Max 1 Men's Running Shoe White/Signal Blue-Anthracite,Nike LunarGlide 6 Running Shoes Black Bright Crimson Hot Lava White For MenDiscount Online Air Max 2012 Mens Shoes Breathable For Sale Black Red White,."

Discount Authentic Mens Nike Air Max 95   2009 Shoes Grey/Orange 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.For Sale Popular Nike Air Max 90 Carved Mens Shoes Grey White,Nike LunarGlide 6 Running Shoes Light Magnet Grey Photo Blue Volt Black For MenHot Nike Hypervenom Phantom Fg Yellow Black Volt,. 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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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 Max 2013 New Releases Shoes for Kids Black Blue,Nike Air Zoom Elite 7 Running Shoes Black White Volt For MenNike Air Max 90 25TH Anniversary ICE Diamond Mens Running Shoes Transparent White Blue Online Sale,, 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. World Cup New Nike Mercurial Victory X TF football boots yellow white black,Interactive HXM00N00E1089VB999 Interactive Shoes For MenNew Balance M577 Black/Green Sneakers 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.

Discount Authentic Mens Nike Dunk High Shoes Grey/Brown/White Marliezl Abud, left, and a fellow Philippine worker talk to an elderly woman at a care center in Tokyo. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

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. Adidas Performance Munich St Bark/Sand/Vintage White Sneakers for MAN,Adidas Basketball D Rose 5 Boost Shoes Base Green For MenPUMA Blaze of Glory Crackle Posy Green Trainers 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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