Men's Basketball Shoe Jordan Ultra.Fly 834268-010 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, adidas Originals Supercolor Track Top CP3517,MEN'S RUNNING SHOE NIKE AIR ZOOM PEGASUS 32 749340-400,Timberland 6 Inch Premium Boot CP3767,, 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. Fred Perry Byron Mid Suede Shoe CP3913,Men's Running Shoe Nike LunarEpic Flyknit 818676-005,adidas Originals Superstar Snake Pack Trainer CP4051,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Armani Jeans Tonal Suede Leather Trainer CP4189,Men's Shoe Air Jordan 5 Retro Low 819171-001,Creative Recreation Kaplan Perforated Suede Trainer CP4327,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Online rpc7t 48ncb7 August Deals Nike Roshe Run Mens 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, Gourmet The 35 Lite SP Trainer CP4463,Men's Shoe Jordan Super.Fly 4 PO 819163-004,Nike Air Max 90 Leather Trainer CP4601,, 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 adidas Court Stabil Star Metallic/White/Tech Metallic,Men's Shoe Nike Air Zoom Odyssey 2 844545-003,Womens Shoes adidas Running CC Fresh 2 W Grey/Silver Metallic/Light Flash Orange,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Womens Sandals Aerosoles A2 by Aerosoles Wip Current White PU,Men's Shoe Nike Flyknit Air Max 620469-105,Womens Shoes Aerosoles A2 by Aerosoles Marimba Dark Brown Combo,. "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 Boots ALDO Exmerina Black Leather,Men's Shoe Nike Kwazi SE 861687-200,Womens Shoes ALDO Okelani Black,."

Sale 8k4xk qeyx4x August Deals Nike Air Max 1 Mens 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 Anne Klein Hida Light Taupe/Light Pink Fabric,Men's Shoe Nike Roshe Two 844656-001,Womens Shoes Anne Klein Ifonly Ivory Multi Fabric,. 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 Shoes Calvin Klein Brady White/Black Striation Leather,Men's Training Shoe Nike Metcon 3 852928-001,Womens Sandals CARLOS by Carlos Santana Cairo Blue,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

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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.

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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 Shoes Clarks Corabeth Erin Light Grey Suede,Nike Air Zoom Streak 5 Unisex Running Shoe (Men's Sizing) 641318-308,Womens Shoes Clarks Vailee Frost Navy,, 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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Cheap 234408 Air Jordan 4 Cat Men Black Cat Black Shoes 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 Nike Darwin Hyper Turquoise/Hyper Jade/Hyper Turquoise,Adidas D Rose 773 Iii Boys Preschool White/Black Basketball Shoes V86309,Womens Boots PATRIZIA Miracle Medium Brown,, 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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Shopping 210419 Air Jordan XII Retro Men Black Blue Shoes 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 Boots Rocket Dog Temecula Brown Joshua,Nike Air Max Sequent Boys Grade School Black/Metallic Cool Grey/University Red/White Running Shoes V,Womens Boots Sam Edelman Patton Whiskey,.

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 Sam Edelman Henley Saddle Kid Suede Leather,Nike Air Max Sequent Girls Grade School Wolf Grey/Reflect Silver/Hyper Pink Running Shoes V98966,Womens Shoes Saucony Cohesion 8 Blue/Green,, 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 Supra Vaider Black/Gunmetal/White,Adidas Crazy 97 Mens Regal Purple/White/Gold Basketball Shoes V72497,Womens Boots UGG Lesley Stout,.

Family ties

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

Shopping 188770 New Balance Kids Ke410 Kid Dark Grey Pink Shoes 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. 

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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 Vaneli Diesis Fango Patent,Adidas D Rose Mens Aluminum/Black/Light Scarlet Slippers V10119,Men's D Rose 773 Windbreaker,.  

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, Nike Storm-FIT Vapor Half-Zip,Nike Air Max Wright Mens Dark Grey/Deep Royal Blue/White Running Shoes V50291,Italia Stadium Jacket,. 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," Women's Shell Boyfriend Tee,Nike Air Max Tavas Mens Gym Red/White/Black Running Shoes V57423,Nike Dri-FIT Racing Printed,."

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