EA7 Core Visibility Hooded Top CP1047 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, Womens Boots C Label Nata-11B Grey,Nike Zoom Stefan Janoski Trainer CP4619Womens Sandals C Label Elinor-10 White,.

"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 C Label Adler-11 Blue,Nike Paul Rodriguez CTD Canvas Trainer CP4650Womens Shoes C Label Liberty-22A Fuchsia,, 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 Boots Calvin Klein Laneige Cement Leather,Nike Air Max 1 Ultra Moire Trainer CP4623Womens Sandals Calvin Klein Babel Black Leather/Muted Snake Print Leather,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Adela Black Nubuck Leather,Nike Stefan Janoski Suede Trainer CP4652Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Nalani Silver/Platinum White Painted Snake Metallic,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

NikeCourt Sphere Striped 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 Shoes Calvin Klein Patna Shadow Grey/Black Hair Calf/Leather,Nike Stefan Janoski Max Trainer CP4645Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Morna Winter Taupe Leather,, 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 Sandals Clarks Taline Trim White Leather,Nike Air Max 90 Essential Trainer CP4712Womens Sandals Clarks Breeze Mila White,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Womens Shoes Clarks Candra Glow Bronze Leather,Nike Stefan Janoski Max Trainer CP4726Womens Shoes Clarks Corabeth Abby Burgundy Leather,. "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 Clarks Everlay Iris Brown Leather,Nike Paul Rodriguez 9 Elite Trainer CP4728Womens Shoes Clarks Leara Blend Navy,."

Various Sizes Adidas Originals Suede Shoes Men Green Yellow gVRDZcSB 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 COACH Platt Saddle,Nike Kobe X 'USA' Trainer CP4752Womens Sandals COACH Margharita Black Star Suede,. 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

Womens Sandals Cole Haan Ayla Wedge II Optic White,Nike Air Max Thea Trainer CP4775Womens Shoes Cole Haan Deacon Loafer Black Suede w/ Studs,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Womens Shoes Cole Haan Zerogrand Sneaker Black/White Crackle,Nike Roshe One Print Trainer CP4818Womens Shoes Cole Haan Palermo Espadrille Black/White Lace,, 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, Unisex Shoes Converse Ctas Pro Hi Lucky Stone/Egret,Nike Air Max 90 Mid Winter Trainer CP4852Womens Sandals ECCO Babette Sandal 3-Strap Shadow White,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

Womens Shoes ECCO Pretoria Black,Puma Suede Classic Trainer CP4898Womens Shoes ECCO Mobile III Premium Sneaker Marine/Marine/Dark Shadow Metallic,. He speaks basic Japanese, which he picked up watching anime series such as "One Piece" and "Detective Conan."

Womens Shoes ECCO Sport Yura GTX Black/Night Shade,Puma Aril Trainer CP4903Womens Sandals GUESS Guavva Silver,," 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.

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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 Shoes Nike Free 5.0 V4 Black/White/White,The North Face Hedgehog Hike Gore-Tex Trainer CP5050Womens Shoes Nike LunarTempo Fiberglass/Blue Lagoon/Game Royal/Black,. 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,Womens Shoes Nike Air Max Sequent Wolf Grey/Vivid Purple/White/Hyper Orange,The North Face Hedgehog FastPack Lite Trainer CP5045Womens Boots PATRIZIA Glassglow Black,, 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 Sandals PATRIZIA Gamma Pewter,Vans Trig Trainer CP5072Womens Shoes PATRIZIA Angus Beige,.

Buy c8h4g 2uyava August Deals Nike Air Max 90 Mens White 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 PUMA Pulse XT Geo Cayenne/Astra Aura,Y3 Snow Model Trainer CP5118Womens Shoes Reebok ZQuick Dash WhitePorcelian/Citrus Glow/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 Shoes Reebok Zquick Soul Purple Slate/Royal Orchid,Eeight Womens Madison Hiker Boot CP5152Womens Shoes Rocket Dog Roty Black Bromley,, 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 Boots Sam Edelman Foster Dark Brown,Flossy Womens Plimsole CP5189Womens Sandals Sam Edelman Eleanor Jute Glitz Fabric,.

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. 

Among those whose skills are in great demand is Marliezl Abud, Womens Shoes Sam Edelman Liam Vintage Rose,Flossy Womens Plimsole CP5197Womens Shoes Saucony Kilkenny XC5 Flat White/Vizipink,, Care Port Itabashi.  

Womens Shoes Superga 2311 Fabricsilkcoccow Stone,adidas Originals Womens ZX Flux Base Pack Trainer CP5262Womens Boots Timberland Authentics Teddy Fleece Fold-Down Warm Grey Nubuck Metallic Finish,, 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. 

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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 Boots UGG Dandylion Tres Lodge Knit/Leather,Unisex Shoes adidas SK LVS Granite/White/BarkWomens Boots UGG Classic Mini Metallic Conifer Aster 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 Sandals UGG Allvey Suntan Leather,Womens Sandals adidas Supercloud Plus Slide White/Clear Grey/Flash RedWomens Slippers UGG Belle Moonstone Hearts 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," Womens Boots Vaneli Jacie Black Suede/Black T. Nicole,Womens Shoes adidas Cloudfoam Xpression Multi Color/BlackWomens Sandals Vaneli Elfry Cuoio Nubia Perf,."

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