Buy 213511 Nike Roshe Run Women Light Shiny Red 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

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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 Kids Benassi JDI Black/White UK#N5-8797,Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_470,Nike Air Zoom Structure 19 Flash Womens Black/Cool Grey/Pure Platinum/Reflective Silver Running Shoe,, 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. Vans Realm Backpack CP101,Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_586,adidas Originals Junior Superstar Foundation Trainer CP555,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Nike Junior Flight Huarache Trainer CP673,Giuseppe Zanotti Sale Women Coupon_662,Nike Junior Roshe Run One Trainer CP666,. 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, Women's Nike Nike Shox NZ EU Black/Wolf Grey/Dark Grey UK#N5-9291,Jimmy Choo Bridal Women Coupon_740,Religion Tokyo Sleeveless Hooded Top CP1146,, 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, Sik Silk Retro Swim Short CP2336,New Balance Men Coupon_1011,Timberland 6 Inch Premium Boot CP3757,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Clarks Originals Desert Vulc Low Shoe CP3890,New Balance Men Coupon_1069,adidas Originals ZX Flux Xeno Trainer CP4031,. "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 Originals Los Angeles Trainer CP4182,New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1166,Creative Recreation Cesario Lo XVI Snake Trainer CP4333,."

Buy h94fz 6z3pr6 August Deals Nike Air Max 1 Womens 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.Hugo Boss Fuster Trainer CP4483,New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1263,Nike Roshe Run Breeze Trainer CP4662,. 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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Womens Shoes Aerosoles Dimperial Black Patent,Nike Derrick Rose Men Coupon_1649,Womens Boots ALDO Ulycia Black,, 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.

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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, Womens Boots Anne Klein Coldfeet Wide Dark Brown Leather/Dark Burnt Suede,Nike Kevin Durant Men Coupon_1694,Womens Shoes Anne Klein Octavie Grey Leather,, 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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Mikitani's revelation came during a lunch session with Indian engineers. Womens Boots Naturalizer Mona Black Leather,Men's Shoe Nike Air Huarache Premium 704830-007,Womens Shoes Naturalizer Ivy Black Leather/Shiny,.

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. Womens Shoes New Balance W1080v5 Silver/Purple,Men's Shoe Nike Air Max Tailwind 8 Print 806803-002,Womens Shoes New Balance Vazee Pace Black/Pink,, 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," Womens Shoes Nike MD Runner 2 White/Fiberglass/Pure Platinum/Metallic Silver,Men's Shoe Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 33 LE 880103-007,Womens Shoes Nike Flex Supreme TR4 Ocean Fog/Blue Grey/Porpoise/Bright Mango,.

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. Womens Sandals Sam Edelman Korinne Black,Men's Shoe Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 9 FlyEase 846246-506,Womens Shoes Sam Edelman Margot Brown/Black Sahara Leopard Brahma Hair/Oily Velour Suede,.  

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, Womens Shoes Superga 2095 Metallic Linen 2095 Metallic Linen Gold,Men's Training Shoe Nike Free Trainer 5.0 V6 719922-616,Womens Boots UGG Bailey Button Bling Grey,. 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," Womens Boots UGG Patsy Primer/Leather Suede,Nike Men's Shoe Air Force 1 Mid 07 315123-001,Womens Shoes UGG Karlina Geo Perf Skyline Suede,."

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