Cheap Retail Adidas ZX Flux Prism Multicolor JH95926 for Men 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, Men's/Women's adidas Originals ZX Flux Shoes Core Black B23984,Cool Air Jordan Retro Jordan 10 Grey Red White BR45274 for Men,Men's/Women's Air Jordan 1 GS Basketball Shoes Dark Red/Gold-White,, 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/Women's Asics Gel Lyte III Shoes White/Grey/Teal H5B4N-0101,Cool And Classical Vans VAULT OLD SKOOL LX SZ 11.5 AGHARTA PACK ANTIQUE VN 0D4EIA2 Black White 88EV096 for Men,Men's/Women's Asics Gel Sight "World Challenger" Running Shoes Off White/Red/Champagne Gold H500L-0294,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Men's/Women's Fragment x Nike Sock Dart SP Shoes Infrared/Summit White 686058-661,Cost charm Nike Air Foamposite Pro PRM Yeezy KS85674 for Men,Men's/Women's Nike Air Huarache Shoes Black/White,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Men's Nike Air Max 2016 Shoes Orange/White 806771-106 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, Men's/Women's Nike Air Max 90 Leather Shoes White/Black,Counter Genuine Air Jordan 8 confetti 61RH-1483 for Men,Men's/Women's Nike Air Max TN Shoes Olive Green/Grey,, 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, Women's Adidas Ultra Boost X Yeezy Boost Running Shoes Pink,The best selling Nike Air Flightposite 2014 58KO-2045 for Men,Women's New Balance 574 Retro Shoes Navy/White/Grey WL574CPM,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Women's New Balance 998 Shoes Crimson/Black W998RO,The hottest new trends Vans AUTHENTIC DOREN SZ 8 ANIMAL MEADOWBROOK VN 0W4NDOT Blue White 22EG-4347 for Men,Women's Nike Air Max 2011 Netty Breathable Running Shoes Purple White Gray,. "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. "Women-Converse CT AS Canvas High Cut Sneakers Charcoal,The latest model Timberland Chukka boots Toddlers Style: 71KF734 for Men,Women-Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 Sneakers Mid Blue,."

Men's Nike Air Max 95 Dynamic Flywire Shoes Cool Grey/Pink/Flash Orange 599300-176 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.Reebok Womens Skyscape Runaround 2.0 Shoes Black/White G57726,They sold very well Air Jordan 12 Retro 12 White RY33973 for Men,Reebok Womens Ventilator Yeka Shoes Black/White/Solar Pink G57878,. 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.

Men's Nike Air Max Zero Shoes White/Blue 789695-005 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, The best selling Nike Wmns Roshe Two Flyknit 2 Rosherun Running 844929-402 Black Blue White MA67562 for Women,Very cheap Reebok Ventilator Adapt Graphic Casual Size 97506362 for Men,Vogue Nike AIR MAYFLY WOVEN SZ 10 833802 002 Grey Black White dark FE47776 for Women,, 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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Men's Nike Free 3.0 V7 Shoes Royal Blue/White 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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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. Stylish Ermanno Scervino Black Contrast Stitch Wide-Leg Trousers For Women,Cheap Uma,Stylish Michael Michael Kors Light Grey Jet Set Crossbody Clutch For Women Sale,, 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. Adidas Womens Low-Top Trainers Black,Core' Mens Sneakers Olive,Camper Womens Flats Lace-Ups Beige,.  

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, Gamins Womens Shoes Fashion Color,Five Ten Mens Sneakers Base Green,Minnetonka Womens Ankle Boots Dusty Brown Suede,. 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," Office Womens Knee Boots Brown Leather,Jendi Bag Shoes Black,Sofia Cruz Womens Shoes Tan,."

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