Authentic 211065 Nike Air Max Women Grey Orange Shoes 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

Men's Shoe Nike Free Train Instinct 833274-860,New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1241Men's Shoe Nike Lunar Force 1 Flyknit Workboot 855984-001,. Along with a group of Japanese colleagues, they will spend the day moving heavy wooden pilings and pouring concrete for the foundation of a seven-story condominium block. 

It is demanding work, Men's Shoe Nike Roshe Two 844656-003,New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1276Men's Shoe Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 10 SFG 844378-103,.

"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, Men's Shoe NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultra React 859719-001,New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1284Men's Training Shoe Nike Lunar Caldra 803879-013,, 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. Men's Training Shoe Nike Train Prime Iron DF 832219-100,New Balance 996 Men Coupon_1305NIKE AIR MAX 1 ULTRA ESSENTIALS Pure Platinum/Black/Game Royal,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Nike Air Presto Unisex Shoe (Men's Sizing) 305919-041,New Balance 751 Men Coupon_1297NIKE BLAZER MID SUEDE VINTAGE Blue Force/Light Blue Lacquer/Sail,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Womens Sandals C Label Elinor-10 Blue 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, NIKE FREE SOCFLY Black/Pink Flash/Tour Yellow/White,New Balance 751 Men Coupon_1299NIKE LUNAR CLAYTON Black/Sail/Black,, 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.

MEN'S RUNNING SHOE NIKE AIR ZOOM PEGASUS 32 749340-002,New Balance 996 Men Coupon_1312Women's Running Shoe Nike Air Max 2016 Print 818101-500,, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Women's Shoe Nike Air Max 1 Ultra Essentials 704993-501,New Balance 999 Men Coupon_1344Women's Shoe Nike Air Presto 878068-400,.

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, Women's Shoe Nike Free TR 6 Metallic 849805-002,New Balance 998 Men Coupon_1337Women's Shoe Nike Metcon 2 821913-100,.

Womens Boots Calvin Klein Greta Black Leather/Elastic

Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Nike Free 5.0 2015 Girls Toddler White/Chalk Blue/Volt/White/Bright Mango Running Shoes V89625,New Balance Women Coupon_1375Adidas D Rose 6 Boys Preschool Black/Scarlet/Gold Ochre Basketball Shoes V25852,. "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. "Adidas D Rose 6 Boys Grade School Black/Vivid Red/Shock Blue Basketball Shoes V29938,New Balance 996 Men Coupon_1330Adidas Springblade Drive 2 Boys Grade School Black/Solar Blue/Metallic Silver Running Shoes V27481,."

Womens Sandals Calvin Klein Jiselle Orange Laquer Toscana Leather 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.Women's Shoe Nike Air Max 90 Ultra Breathe 725061-002,New Balance Women Coupon_1351Adidas Crazy 1 Mens Clear Grey/Bold Pink/Light Pink/White Basketball Shoes V44337,. 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.

"Adidas Crazylight 2.5 Boost Low Mens White/White Basketball Shoes V94998,New Balance 373 Women Coupon_1415Adidas J Wall Mens Black/Flash Green/Solar Orange Basketball Shoes V18517,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Adidas Pure Boost Zg Mens Collegate Navy/Mineral Blue Running Shoes V45559,New Balance 574 Women Coupon_1428Adidas Originals Adilette Mens New Navy/White/New Navy Slippers V66366,," Kingston said.

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.

Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Genavee Greige Leather

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

Adidas Barricade Court Mens Bright Yellow/Iron Metallic/Black Tennis Shoes V42692,New Balance 420 Women Coupon_1422Nike Air Max 90 Ultra Mens Black/White/Anthracite Running Shoes V32655,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 32 Mens Black/White/Black Running Shoes V33262,New Balance 574 Women Coupon_1495Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit 2015 Mens Blue Lagoon/Glacier Ice/Volt/Black Running Shoes V39849,, 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.

Womens Boots CARLOS by Carlos Santana Hanna 2 Brown 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, Nike Lunartempo 2 Mens Deep Royal Blue/Black/Racer Blue/White Running Shoes V51870,New Balance 574 Women Coupon_1470Nike Zoom Vomero 10 Mens Game Royal/Hyper Orange/Black/White Running Shoes V54726,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

Adidas Response Boost Womens Clear Sky/White Running Shoes V45346,New Balance 574 Women Coupon_1482Adidas Barricade V Classic Womens Midnight Indigo/White/Silver Metallic Tennis Shoes V64554,. He speaks basic Japanese, which he picked up watching anime series such as "One Piece" and "Detective Conan."

Nike Air Max Sequent Womens Wolf Grey/Vivid Purple/White/Hyper Orange Running Shoes V99201,New Balance 574 Women Coupon_1504Nike Air Zoom Odyssey Womens Hyper Violet/Concord/Gamma Blue/Black Running Shoes V59408,," he said. "I want to do more work." He says he wants to run a big farm in Indonesia one day, perhaps growing rice or coffee.

Nike Free Rn Flyknit Womens Laser Orange/Gamma Blue/Cool Grey/Black Running Shoes V60746,New Balance 574 Women Coupon_1488Nike Roshe One Womens Black/White Running Shoes V32552,.

Womens Boots Clarks Kacia Alfresco Black Leather A Vietnamese worker checks autoparts at a Shigeru plant in Gunma Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobyashi)

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."

Men's Nike CP Trainer 2 Black/White/Volt UK#N5-9571,New Balance 574 Women Coupon_1514Men's Nike Lunarglide 7 Racer Blue/Sail/Deep Royal Blue/Black UK#N5-8900,.

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.

Nike Kids Jr Mercurial Victory Indoor Soccer Black/Hyper Punch/Black UK#N5-8731,New Balance 999 Women Coupon_1558Women's Nike Free 1.0 Cross Bionic 2 Fuchsia Flash/Light Retro/White/Black UK#N5-9332,.

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

Hype Speckle Backpack CP65,Nike Derrick Rose Men Coupon_1628Converse Infant Chuck Taylor All Star East Coast Trainer CP485,.

Womens Sandals Clarks Hayla Samoa White Leather Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

adidas Originals Junior Tubular Trainer CP576,Nike Kevin Durant Men Coupon_1695Nike Junior Air Max 90 Leather Trainer CP677,. technology companies like Google and Uber in the emerging fields of autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, ride-sharing and the internet of things. In these new fields, the flow of ideas -- and people -- is vital.

"It is impossible for Japanese to create a very competitive technology-based company unless we globalize internally,Vans Nursery Authentic Trainer CP801,Nike Derrick Rose Men Coupon_1636adidas Originals Sport Essential Full Zip Hooded Top CP937,, CEO of Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, at an in-house seminar last year.

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.

Rakuten's push for global talent began in 2009, Cuckoos Nest Towelling Gym Hooded Top CP1041,Nike Kevin Durant War Boots Men Coupon_1757Vans Off The Wall Hooded Top CP1184,.

Womens Sandals Clarks Hayla Young White 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. Brave Soul Oakville Faux Fur Bomber Jacket CP1267,Nike Kevin Durant Men Coupon_1681Glorious Gangsta MYA BomberJacket CP1390,.

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. Rains Breaker Jacket CP1508,Nike Kevin Durant War Boots Men Coupon_1767Hype Flecked Cable Knit Jumper CP1818,, via a loyalty point system.

"Rakuten is basically an e-commerce company, but we are moving into other businesses also. I wanted to work in the latest technologies," Jack & Jones Rick Original AT073 Denim Short CP2161,Nike Kevin Durant War Boots Men Coupon_1762UCLA Piped Swim Short CP2347,.

Family ties

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

Womens Shoes Clarks Corabeth Abby Cognac Patent Leather 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. 

Among those whose skills are in great demand is Marliezl Abud, Franklin & Marshall Arch Logo Suit CP3616,AIR JORDAN XX9 Black/Dark Grey/Gym Red/WhiteHavaianas Brasil Flip Flop CP3839,, Care Port Itabashi.  

adidas Originals ZX Flux Print Trainer CP3963,Men's Baseball Shoe Nike Lunar Trout 2 Turf 807122-061adidas Originals Gazelle Indoor Trainer CP4069,, it entered economic partnership agreements with the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam that would allow up to 900 caregivers a year to come work in the country for up to four or five years each. 

Womens Shoes Clarks Helina Amo Black

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. Asics Gel-Lyte III 25th Anniversary Trainer CP4212,Men's Baseball Shoe Nike Lunar Trout 2 Turf 807122-041Creative Recreation Cesario Low XVI Trainer CP4319,.  

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, Fred Perry Stockport Suede Trainer CP4453,Men's Basketball Shoe Nike Hyperdunk 2016 844359-680Nike Air Max 1 Mid FB Trainer CP4607,. 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.

"I want to have a child next year," Nike Free SB Nano Trainer CP4694,Men's Basketball Shoe Nike Zoom KD 9 843392-611Nike Koth Ultra Mid Trainer CP4858,."

Reebok Furylite Graphic Trainer CP4989,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

Vans Old Skool Premium Leather Trainer CP5075,Men's Running Shoe Nike Air Max 2015 698902-013Nike Womens Benassi Swoosh Sandal CP5240,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Womens Shoes adidas Slingshot TR Blue Glow/Raw Purple/Halo Blue,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

3 months for $9

Womens Boots Aerosoles In An Instint Dark Brown Combo,Men's Running Shoe Nike Air Zoom Vomero 10 717440-001Womens Sandals Aerosoles Stone Plush White,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

Womens Shoes Aerosoles Dimperial Black,Men's Running Shoe Nike LunarEpic Flyknit 818676-003Womens Boots ALDO Exmerina Black Leather,

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

Womens Shoes ALDO Choewia White/Black,Men's Shoe Air Jordan 14 Retro 487471-005Womens Sandals Anne Klein Taree Gold Multi Fabric,
Womens Shoes Anne Klein AKAppeal Off-White Multi Fabric,Men's Shoe Air Jordan 5 Retro Low 819171-135Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Junior Platino Metallic Leather,
  • New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1258
  • Nike Mercurial Victory III Firm Ground Bright Mango Black 3130318
  • Celestion G10 GOLD 15ohm 10" Alnico Guitar Speaker
  • Nike Zoom Sd3 Men's Throwing Shoes Fashion COMUK:6684
  • Nike Performance Men's Mercurial Victory V Sg - Orange - Football boots
  • Men's/Women's Asics Gel Lyte V "Lights & Shadows" Shoes Black/White HK542-0190
  • Elle Sport Womens Marl Panelled Performance Training Top Coal/ Coral Reef
  • Timberland Earthkeepers Ellsworth Ballerina Flats Apricot Full Grain For Women
  • Merrell Grassbow Sport Walking Boots (Women's) - Equinox / Blue Iris Weave Outlet Online Shop
  • Fly London Women’s Cace927fly Ankle Boots B01LYV4IHT
  • 2016 Sale Nike Free Run 3 Trainers Women's Pink Gray
  • ASICS GT-2000 3 Women Lightning/Hot Pink/Navy Running Shoes
  • 2016 Sale Nike Free 5.0 Leather Mens Running Shoes Black White
  • Air Jordan 13 Grey Toe
  • Nike Retro Air Jordan 6 Vi Men Basketball Shoes Orange Blue
  • Men's - New Balance 580 Racing Pack Blue / Yellow Shoes
  • Air Jordan 6-17-23 (Kids) Kid White / College Blue-Black
  • Men's Nike Alpha Strike 3/4 2 TD University Red/Black/White
  • Nike Air Command Force White Lion Blue Crimson (684715-101)
  • Saucony Shoes Sale Jazz Low Pro green/white SA 5730
  • Men's Shoe Jordan J23 854557-011