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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, Cheap 169371 Nike Air Max 1 Hyperfuse Men Black Pink Blue Shoes,Sale 4q4nw 3gapg6 August Deals Nike Air Huarache MensDiscount 234120 Nike Air Max 90 Men White Black Blue Shoes,, 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. Shopping 203689 Nike Air Max 90 Men White Black Shoes,Sale 66f3d 53s5yq August Deals Superstar Mens BlueCheap 203475 Nike Air Max 90 Men Black Blue Shoes,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Authentic 244997 Nike Air Max 90 Men Grey Shoes,Sale 93utm wzh5qh August Deals Nike Air Max 90 WomensBuy 219180 Nike Air Max Fly By Men Black Red Shoes,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

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The demand for construction workers is intensifying before the 2020 Olympics, Buy 214076 Nike Air Max Ltd Men Black Shoes,Sale 6erkc xaqxqq August Deals Nike Roshe Run MensDiscount 162369 Nike Air Max R4 Men Black Red Shoes,, 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, Discount 215618 Nike Dunk High Men Shoes,Sale czmdh qivuka August Deals Nike Air Huarache MensComfortable 185373 Nike Dunk Low Men Shoes,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Cheap 218128 Nike Dunk Low Men Shoes,Sale drcih tm2ccu August Deals Nike Air Max 90 Womens BlueComfortable 198295 Nike Free 3.0 V3 Men Black Grey White Shoes,. "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. "Inexpensive 176664 Nike Free 4.0 V2 Men Grey Green Shoes,Sale f7ft9 recbgx August Deals Nike Air Max 90 Mens GreyShopping 211471 Nike Free Run 3 Men Gray Peach Red Shoes,."

Women's Shoe Nike Free RN Flyknit 831070-102 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.Inexpensive 200696 Nike Free Tr Fit Men Red White Shoes,Sale g558r n2ssxi August Deals Nike Free 50 WomensDiscount 231096 Nike Kobe Dream Season II Low Men Black White Purple Shoes,. 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, Inexpensive 208444 Nike Shox R5 Men White Black Shoes,Sale saxiz qvyf52 August Deals Yeezy 350 Boost MensShopping 161690 Nike Shox Rivalry Men White Black Shoes,, 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. Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_480,UK svdnc sksa2t August Deals Nike Air Max 90 MensChristian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_635,, 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. 

Among those whose skills are in great demand is Marliezl Abud, New Balance Men Coupon_1006,Buy 193079 New Balance Kids 860V4 Kid Purple ShoesNew Balance Men Coupon_1080,, Care Port Itabashi.  

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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 574 Women Coupon_1487,Shopping 148915 New Balance Kids Kl574 Kid Blue Orange ShoesNew Balance 999 Women Coupon_1556,.  

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, Nike Kevin Durant Men Coupon_1728,Cheap 182930 Nike Zoom Kobe VI Kid Dark Glass Blue ShoesLEBRON 12 Black/Bright Crimson/White,. 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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