Discount 228858 Nike Zoom Kobe VIII Basketball Men Black Blue 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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It is demanding work, Men's Nike Shoe Hyperfr3sh 759996-600,Asics Gel-Quik 33 Women Coupon_390Men's Nike Tiempo Legend VI AG-R 819712-010,.

"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 Running Shoe Nike Flyknit Air Max 620469-102,Asics Running Shoes Men Coupon_373Men's Running Shoe Nike LunarGlide 7 Flash 803566-001,, 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 Shoe Air Jordan XXXI Low (Marquette) 897564-406,Asics Running Shoes Women Coupon_402Men's Shoe Jordan Impact 854289-415,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Men's Shoe LeBron XIII Lifestyle 806396-001,Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_444Men's Shoe Nike Air Max 1 Ultra 2.0 Flyknit 875942-100,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Womens Sandals Aerosoles Wip About Navy Combo 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 Shoe Nike Air Max Sequent 719912-013,2015 Christian Louboutin Women Coupon_427Men's Shoe Nike Air Zoom Odyssey 749338-003,, 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, Men's Shoe Nike Zoom Talaria Mid Flyknit 856957-200,Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_504Men's Training Shoe Nike Lunar Caldra 803879-417,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Men,Adidas Bounce Titan 2012 Men Coupon_018NIKE AIR MAX 95 Black/Medium Ash/Cool Grey/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. "NIKE AIR ZOOM PEGASUS 31 Volt Ice/Volt/Antarctica/Black,Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_509NIKE FREE 5.0 Fuchsia Flash/Fuchsia Glow/Clearwater,."

Womens Shoes ALDO Lennoxville Black 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.NIKE LUNAR BALLISTEC White/Dusty Cactus/Black/Hyper Crimson,Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_514NIKE TW '15 Black/Challenge Red/Dark Grey/White,. 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.

Womens Shoes Anne Klein AKYesmam Black/Black Fabric 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, Nike Air Max 2016 Girls Grade School Wolf Grey/Black/Cool Grey/Hyper Pink Running Shoes V96845,Christian Louboutin Sale Women Coupon_615Adidas Crazy 1 Mens Black/Neon Pink/Solar Blue Basketball Shoes V23179,, 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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Womens Sandals C Label Rollin-14 Camel 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,Men's Nike Lunar Code Pro 3/4 D Black/Anthracite/Metallic Silver UK#N5-9631,Jimmy Choo Pumps Women Coupon_826Men's Nike Tiempo Legacy II FG Pure Platinum/Black/Hyper Orange UK#N5-9503,, 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.

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Mikitani's revelation came during a lunch session with Indian engineers. New Era NY Pitch 2 Tone Backpack CP80,Jimmy Choo Sandals Women Coupon_878Flossy Infant Plimsole CP510,.

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. Kickers Junior Kick T Shoe CP614,Jimmy Choo Wedges Women Coupon_934Creative Recreation Nursery Cesario Quilted Trainer CP756,, 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," Jack & Jones Stan Adam Anti Fit 864 Jean CP865,Jimmy Choo Wedges Women Coupon_933Antony Morato Full Zip New Tape Hooded Top CP972,.

Family ties

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

Womens Sandals Calvin Klein Jeans Opel Sicily Leather 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, Nike AW77 Fleece Full Zip Hooded Top CP1135,Platforms Jimmy Choo Women Coupon_990Bellfield Horow 3-In-1 Rain Jacket CP1238,, 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. Pretty Green Mosley Crew Knit CP1853,New Balance Men Coupon_1074Ellesse Ambramo Tennis Short CP2130,.  

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, Jack & Jones Odyssey Swim Short CP2317,New Balance Men Coupon_1072FILA Paolo Half Zip Track Top CP3575,. 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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