Converse Infant Chuck Taylor All Star Party Trainer CP492 Farruq Fahlevi, left, and Muhamad Irvan Gustian, both from Indonesia, work on a farm harvesting cabbages in Ibaraki Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
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Famous for its resistance to immigration, Japan opens its doors

Number of foreign workers doubles in five years as nation faces labor crisis

Womens Boots ALDO Lyttle Black Leather,adidas Originals Gazelle OG Trainer CP4118Womens Sandals ALDO Dolci Black,. 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, Womens Shoes ALDO Gwalevia Gold,adidas Originals ZX Flux Weave Trainer CP4159Womens Boots Anne Klein Towny Black Faveau/Gunmetal Hardware,.

"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, Womens Shoes Anne Klein Petrica Light Pink Leather,adidas Originals Stan Smith Vulc Trainer CP4151Womens Shoes Anne Klein Rylie Cafe Latte Leather,, 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. Womens Shoes Anne Klein Yahaira Tweed Fabric,adidas Originals Adi-Ease Trainer CP4077Womens Shoes Anne Klein AK7Macarena Black Multi Leather,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Luster Platino Diamond Drill Fabric,adidas Originals ZX Flux Mesh Trainer CP4163Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Aware Gold Glitter,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Nike OTC65 Track 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, Womens Sandals C Label Kona-1 Black,adidas Originals Stan Smith Vulcanised Trainer CP4167Womens Shoes C Label Olive-21 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.

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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, Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Ginae Dark Red Patent,Asics Gel-Lyte III 25th Anniversary Trainer CP4212Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Nasser Greige,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Ginnie Black/Soft White Leather/Muted Snake Print Leather,Asics Gel-Kayano EVO Trainer CP4247Womens Sandals CARLOS by Carlos Santana Mezza Black,. "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. "Womens Shoes CARLOS by Carlos Santana Westly Kirsch Red,Asics Gel-Lyte V Trainer CP4220Womens Boots Clarks Desert Boot Pale Green Suede,."

2016 U.S. Match Home 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.Womens Sandals Clarks Brinkley Arney White Synthetic,Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Trainer CP4262Womens Sandals Clarks Breeze Mila Pewter,. 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.

"Womens Shoes Clarks Daelyn Villa Navy Suede,Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Brea Leather Trainer CP4297Womens Shoes Clarks Juniper Sling Black Leather,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Womens Shoes Clarks Lorry Grace Burgundy,Cortica Epic Runner Trainer CP4309Womens Shoes Clarks Un Voltra Navy,," 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.

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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

Womens Sandals COACH Platt Black,Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Jacquard Camo Trainer CP4294Womens Sandals COACH Alyssa Petal,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Womens Shoes COACH Flash Platinum Metallic,Creative Recreation Cesario Low XVI Trainer CP4357Womens Shoes COACH Olive Silver,, 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 Climacool Aeroknit Tee 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, Womens Boots Cole Haan Briarcliff Boot Extended Calf Chestnut Leather,Creative Recreation Cesario Lo XVI Snake Trainer CP4333Womens Sandals Cole Haan Cameron Sandal Black,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

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Nike KO 3.0 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."

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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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Various Sizes NIKE LUNAR FORCE 1 FUSE CTY Black Grey aKE529Rv Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

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"It is impossible for Japanese to create a very competitive technology-based company unless we globalize internally,Womens Shoes New Balance WX608v4 White/Mint,Lacoste Chaymon Premium Trainer CP4533Womens Shoes New Balance W496V2 Brown/Pink,, 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, Womens Shoes Nike Free 5.0 V4 Court Purple/Cave Purple/White/Hyper Jade,Nike Air Max 1 FB Trainer CP4608Womens Shoes Nike Air Vapor Ace White/Wolf Grey/Metallic Silver,.

Authentic 5ygpz sxuzq7 August Deals Nike Free 50 Womens 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. Womens Shoes Nike LunarTempo Black/Copa/Blue Lagoon/Hyper Orange,Nike Roshe Run Sneakerboot CP4605Womens Shoes Nike Free 5.0 TR Fit 5 PRT Black/Volt/Black,.

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 Sandals PATRIZIA Jona Blue,Nike Stefan Janoski Max L Trainer CP4644Womens Sandals PATRIZIA Zanthos Beige,, 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 PUMA evoSpeed 3.3 FG Blue Atoll/White/Clematis Blue/Bright Plasma,Nike Air Max 90 Essential Trainer CP4670Womens Shoes Reebok Zone Cushrun MT Flat Grey/Citrus Glow/Lush Orchid/Graphite/White/Steel,.

Family ties

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

Authentic dqp6h v58kb9 August Deals Nike Air Max 90 Mens Blue 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, Womens Boots Rocket Dog Calypso Black Stag,Nike Air Max Tavas Trainer CP4715Womens Sandals Rocket Dog Aviara Natural Cedros,, 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. Womens Shoes Sam Edelman Dea Golden Caramel Leather,Nike Jordan Westbrook 0 Trainer CP4801Womens Shoes Saucony Cohesion TR8 Grey/Pink,.  

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 2311 Fabricsilkcoccow Stone,Nike Roshe One Print Trainer CP4820Womens Boots Timberland Timberland Authentics Open Weave 6" Boot Black Nubuck with Black Weave,. 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 Soleil Black Suede/Leather,Nike Internationalist Leather Trainer CP4866Womens Boots UGG Classic Short Pine Twinface,."

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