Asics Gel Lyte III LC Light Grey Light Grey Sz 12.5 NIB H5E3L Laser Cut Farruq Fahlevi, left, and Muhamad Irvan Gustian, both from Indonesia, work on a farm harvesting cabbages in Ibaraki Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
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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, Nike Dunk SB 2012 New Mid Cut Mens Shoes white gray purple,New Asics H5Z2N.8001 GEL Lyte III Dark Green Men's Running Shoes Size 10 US,Nike Hyperize Sneakers For Men in 73278,, 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. Nike Ken Griffen Max Mens Shoes 2014 Grey Blue,Nike Air Force 1 07 Lv8 Shoes Mens White N88340,Nike Lunar Hyperdunk X 2012 in 69071,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Nike Roshe Run HYP QS Mens Light Weight Mesh Organge Air Force Blue Low Running Shoes,Nike Air Jordan Spike 40 Pe Shoes Mens Orange White Royal N75369,Nike Zoom KD V ELITE Series Basketball Shoes Dark Green,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Discount Authentic Womens Nike Shox R4 Shoes White/Light Blue/Brilliant Silver 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)

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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, New Balance MRL996 Grey/Light Blue Sneakers for MAN,Nike Lunarestoa 2 Premium Shoes Mens Black Brown Black N15689,Converse Jack Purcell Wetland Mid Black Trainers for MAN,.

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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. "Nike Air Max 90 Leather Iron/Metallic Red Bronze/Sail Running Shoes for WOMAN,Nike Zoom Sb Stefan Janoski Canvas Shoes Mens Blue White N40680,Nike Air Max Thea Jacquard Premium Bright Citron/Black/Noble Purple/Bright Citron Running Shoes for,."

The Hottest Styles Nike Archive Sleeveless Hoodie Sail/Black For Women Selling Well 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.Acronym Nike certificate Air Vapormax Moc 2 FK Best Black Volt Yellow AQ0996-007,Nike Free Trainer 3 0 V3 Training Shoes Pure Platinum Flash Lime Black White For Men,Discount Authentic 136066-041 Mens Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro Black / Royal Blue,. 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.

Asics 8 Blue Mens Shoes Indonesian trainees harvest cabbages at a farm in Ibaraki Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

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, Discount Authentic Mens Nike Air Max 90 2009 Shoes White/Black/Grey,Nike Air Pegasus 83 Shoes Cedar Hyper Crimson Black Summit White For Men,Discount Authentic Mens Nike Air Max 90 White/Dark Blue/Red,, 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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Nike Tn Grigio Men Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

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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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Contracted Fish Mouth Waterproof Platform Wedge Muffins Female Sandals - Black - 39 Foreign students attend a job fair in Tokyo. Japanese companies, including e-commerce player Rakuten, are increasingly looking for international talent. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

Mikitani's revelation came during a lunch session with Indian engineers. Nike Wmns Air Max 95 Winter Brown,2014 New Air Jordan 1 Trek Black Yellow Outdoor Climbing Shoes,Puma Cell Bubble x Trapstar Black,.

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. adidas GolfadiPower Sport Boost,2015 Air Jordan Spizike 3.5 Retro Mens Shoes Glowing Black Red Sale,New Balance Classics620 - Redwoods,, 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. Nike Air Force 1 07 Suede Shoes Womens Dark White Metallic Gold N51195,2015 Nike Free 5.0 2 Mens Shoes Latest 5.0+2 Running Sneakers For Cheap Blue Fluorescent Green Black,Nike Juvenate Textile Shoes Womens Blue Blue Blue N38167,.  

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.

Abud felt a crushing homesickness at first. But after she had passed the local exam, Adidas Running Energy Boost 2 0 Shoes Pearl Grey Running White Pearl Metallic For Women,2015 Nike Free Run+ 2 Men Shoes Green White,Nike Free 1 0 Cross Bionic Training Shoes Black White Volt For Women,. She likes the shopping, too.

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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