Buy 200497 Nike Air Classic BW Si Men Black Green 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

Shopping 181031 New Balance Mw659 Unisex Brown Shoes,Cheap 240016 Nike Free 5.0 V4 Men Black Red White ShoesAuthentic 202597 Nike Roshe Run Unisex White Shoes,. 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, Inexpensive 206414 Air Jordan VII Retro Women White Roes Black Shoes,Authentic 221999 Nike Free 4.0 V2 Men Red White ShoesComfortable 221437 New Balance Classics Wl1320 Women Black White Shoes,.

"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, Buy 146099 New Balance W890V4 Women Pink Shoes,Comfortable 217997 Nike Free 5.0 V4 Men Gray Black White ShoesAuthentic 151055 Nike Air Flightposite 1 Women Metallic Red 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. Comfortable 152933 New Balance W1400V2 Women Blue Silver Shoes,Inexpensive 205765 Nike Free 5.0 V4 Men Purple Yellow ShoesShopping 211612 Nike Air Max Women White Silver Shoes,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Shopping 212517 Nike Air Max 1 Women Blue Red White Shoes,Shopping 236334 Nike Free 4.0 V2 Men Red Green White ShoesInexpensive 150453 Nike Air Max Tailwind Women Black Purple Shoes,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

adidas Originals Crib Superstar Trainer CP721 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, Discount 172512 Nike Dunk High Women Sun Flower Shoes,Comfortable 146453 Nike Free Run Men Navy Blue White ShoesBuy 184728 Nike Dunks High Women Super Mario Red White Blue 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.

Discount 203891 Nike Free 3.0 V4 Women Gray Sky Blue Shoes,Comfortable 208823 Nike Free Run Men Black Orange ShoesDiscount 160189 Nike Free Run 2 Women Grey Pink Shoes,, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Discount 234677 Nike Hyperdunk Women Black White Shoes,Comfortable 189580 Nike Free Run Men Red Black ShoesAdidas Athletic Hard II Men Coupon_001,.

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, Adidas Bounce Titan VI Men Coupon_079,Buy 160265 Nike Free Run Men Gray Navy ShoesAdidas Originals JS Men Coupon_115,.

adidas Originals Long Line Hooded Top CP944

Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Adidas Porsche Design VI Men Coupon_208,Comfortable 158776 Nike Free Run 3 Men Army Green ShoesAdidas Springblade 2013 Men Coupon_276,. "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. "Asics Running Shoes Women Coupon_396,Discount 176912 Nike Free Trainer Men Blue White ShoesChristian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_462,."

Kings Will Dream Crept Poly Hooded Top CP1095 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.Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_540,Shopping 170007 Nike Free Run 3 Men Grey Orange White ShoesChristian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_618,. 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.

"Jimmy Choo Bridal Women Coupon_725,Inexpensive 200319 Nike Free Run 3 Men Red Grey White ShoesJimmy Choo heels Women Coupon_771,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Jimmy Choo Sandals Women Coupon_907,Buy 235989 Nike Free Run 2 Men Gray Blue ShoesPlatforms Jimmy Choo Women Coupon_987,," 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.

Asylum Depay Harrington Jacket CP1225

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

New Balance 410 Men Coupon_1104,Comfortable 172677 Nike Free Trainer 3.0 Men Black Blue Orange ShoesNew Balance 501 Men Coupon_1123,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1250,Cheap 242300 Nike Free Run 2 Men Gray Green ShoesNew Balance Women Coupon_1358,, 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.

Men's Nike Hypervenom Phelon II FG Total Orange/Black/Total Orange UK#N5-9268 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, New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1274,Inexpensive 176077 Nike Hyperdunk Men Grey Blue ShoesNew Balance 999 Women Coupon_1549,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

Nike Derrick Rose Men Coupon_1657,Authentic 219073 Nike Kobe Dream Season II Low Men White Black Purple ShoesNike Kevin Durant Men Coupon_1747,. He speaks basic Japanese, which he picked up watching anime series such as "One Piece" and "Detective Conan."

Nike Kobe Bryant Men Coupon_1795,Discount 225818 Nike Lebron 8 Men Gun Metal ShoesMen's Basketball Shoe Jordan Ultra.Fly 834268-010,," 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.

Men's Firm-Ground Soccer Cleat Nike Hypervenom Phantom II FG 747213-307,Cheap 211016 Nike Hyperize Kobe Bryant Olympic Men White Black Red ShoesMen's Golf Shoe Nike Lunar Fire 853738-600,.

Seek We Are Coach Jacket CP1513 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 Flex Run 2015 709022-002,Inexpensive 193926 Nike Lebron 11 Men White Red Black ShoesMen's Nike Shoe Hyperfr3sh 759996-200,.

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.

Men's Running Shoe Nike Air Zoom Odyssey 749338-107,Discount 192889 Nike Kobe X Men Black ShoesMen's Shoe Air Jordan 1 Retro Low OG 705329-101,.

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

Men's Shoe Jordan Eclipse Chukka 881453-300,Authentic 157868 Nike Lebron 11 Men Purple Black Grey ShoesMen's Shoe Nike Air Huarache SE 852628-400,.

Brave Soul Alfie Skinny Denim Short CP2094 Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

Men's Shoe Nike Air Max Excellerate 4 806770-101,Inexpensive 182700 Nike Lunareclipse Shield Men Black White ShoesMen's Shoe Nike Aptare SE 881988-300,. 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,Men's Shoe Nike Hypershift 844369-011,Discount 164552 Nike Lunarglide Men Black Green ShoesMen's Shoe Nike Roshe Two Flyknit 365 859535-001,, 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, Men's Shoe Nike Zoom Spiridon Ultra 876267-002,Buy 211331 Nike Lunarglide Men Grey Orange ShoesMen's Training Shoe Nike Lunar Caldra 803879-100,.

Asylum Gnarly Swim Short CP2286 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 AIR HUARACHE Wolf Grey/White/Black/Wolf Grey,Discount 186728 Nike Lunarglide 2 Men Grey Green ShoesNIKE AIR ZOOM STRUCTURE 18 Bright Crimson/Black/Blue Lagoon/Tota,.

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. NIKE FREE TRAINER 3.0 V3 White/Dark Grey/Bright Crimson,Shopping 167867 Nike Lunarmax Men Black Jade ShoesNIKE SB PAUL RODRIGUEZ CITADEL Obsidian/White,, 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," Women's Shoe Nike Air Force 1 07 Premium 616725-104,Shopping 181340 Nike Lunarglide 2 Men Gray Black ShoesWomen's Shoe Nike Air Max Zero 857661-003,.

Family ties

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

Projekts NYC Shanti Track Top CP3589 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, Women's Shoe Nike LunarEpic Flyknit 818677-400,Authentic 157865 Nike Lunarswift 2 Men Gray Black ShoesNike Roshe One Boys Toddler White/White/Wolf Grey Running Shoes V95985,, Care Port Itabashi.  

Adidas D Lillard 1.0 Boys Grade School Power Red/Black/White Basketball Shoes V69292,Inexpensive 150529 Nike Roshe Run Men Yellow White ShoesNike Air Max 90 Boys Grade School White/Black/Volt/Pink Blast/Total Orange Running Shoes V88625,, 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. 

Havaianas Team Flip Flop CP3842

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 Free Run Girls Grade School Pink Blast/Metallic Silver/White/Black/Wolf Grey Running Shoes V687,Shopping 161296 Nike Shox Nz Men White Black ShoesAdidas D Lillard 2.0 Mens Black/Vivid Red/Shock Blue Basketball Shoes V29954,.  

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 Element Refine Mens University Red/Light Maroon/Solar Blue Running Shoes V82663,Inexpensive 209829 Nike Shox Nz Men Black Pink ShoesAdidas Adissage Comfort Fitfoam Mens Black/White Slippers V31243,. 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 Air Max Ltd Mens Black Running Shoes V12225,Cheap 148520 Nike SB Dunks High Men ShoesNike Air Zoom Odyssey Mens Bright Crimson/Volt/Ghost Green/Black Running Shoes V41924,."

Nike Free 5.0 2015 Mens Black/Dark Grey/Cool Grey/White Running Shoes V17271,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

Nike Zoom Structure 18 Mens Total Orange/Voltage Green/Ghost Green/Black Running Shoes V81787,Buy 229518 Nike Shox R5 Men White Black ShoesAdidas Supernova Sequence 8 Womens Shock Green/Halo Running Shoes V74572,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Nike Air Max Tailwind 8 Womens Black/Anthracite/White Running Shoes V13790,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

3 months for $9

Nike Air Max Thea Womens Metallic Silver/Pure Platinum/White/Silver Running Shoes V63657,Inexpensive 190082 Nike Zoom Hyperfuse Men Royal White Black ShoesNike Free 5.0 V4 Womens Black/Cool Grey/Wolf Grey/Anthracite Running Shoes V16080,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

Men's Nike Tiempo Rio III IC Light Crimson/Total Crimson/Metallic Silver UK#N5-9520,Shopping 228338 Nike Zoom Kobe IV Men Red White ShoesMen's Nike Free Trainer 5.0 V6 AMP FLT Silver/Volt/Black UK#N5-8958,

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

Nike Kids Roshe One Print Copa/Blue Lagoon/White UK#N5-9547,Shopping 153859 Nike Zoom Hyperdunk Men Royal Blue Silver Grey Shoesadidas Originals Gym Sack CP14,
adidas Originals Infant Racer Lite Trainer CP465,Discount 189510 Nike Zoom Kobe VI Men Gray Shoesadidas Originals Junior ZX Flux Trainer CP581,
  • Authentic 182324 Nike Free 3.0 V5 Men Black Blue Shoes
  • Vans Sk8 - High-Top Trainers - Navy L7q6490 Ebay
  • Zign Men Boots Light Brown 652749
  • Cheap Mens Nike Kyrie III "BHM" Sale
  • Electric Green Shoes - Nike Zoom Streak 5 - Hyper Punch Black 1ZK6785 - Track & Field - Men's
  • Adidas Mens Trainers White
  • Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 33 Shoes Free Shipping
  • Discounts Jordan College Fan Pullover Hoodie Dark Steel Grey For Men Sale Online
  • Nike LeBron 15 "Ashes" Best Quality Zipper Black Gold White Top
  • New Balance WR996WM (white / silver)
  • Stylish Adidas Originals Gazelle Low Top Trainers Grey / Dark For Women
  • Exclusive Girls Nike Kobe Good A.D. Mambacurial discount
  • 2017 Womens Nike Fashion Shoes Men's Jordan Eclipse Photo Blue/White/Black Shoes Canada SZX350337
  • Pumps & Heels Women Clarks Brierdolly Platform Pump Blush Classic
  • Package Adidas ZX 850 Adidas Zx 750 Online Outlet Store White Red B35638 ZX 8000 Buy Men Adidas ZX 10000 Shop grande vente Adidas ZX 750 Flyknit roman unmondeensoi
  • Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas YZY Boost 350 White No.2012
  • Boots Men Caterpillar Haverhill Monk Strap Boot Burgundy/Black Best Choice
  • New Air Jordan 4-University Blue/ Black/White A5689-22
  • Nike Air Max 90 Ultra Essential Running Shoes Men Black/White
  • Nike LeBron 14 blue
  • Inexpensive 203610 Nike Zoom Kobe VIII Basketball Men Black Yellow Purple Shoes