Men's Shoe Nike Air Max Sequent 719912-101 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

Men's Nike Golf Lunar Command White/Lyon Blue/Black UK#N5-9392,Nike Flex Fury Girls Grade School Black/Vivid Pink/White/Pink Pow Running Shoes V29661Nike Kids Jr Hypervenom Phelon II FG Soccer Green Strike/Black UK#N5-9178,. 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, Nike Kids Air Max Invigor Black/White UK#N5-9582,Nike Free 5.0 Girls Grade School Hyper Cobalt/Deep Royal Blue/White/Hyper Pink Running Shoes V58117Women's Nike Zoom Fly 2 Chalk Blue/Racer Blue/Black UK#N5-9554,.

"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, Y3 Future Sport Backpack CP103,Nike Air Max 90 Girls Grade School Copa/Blue Lagoon/White Running Shoes V48127Mr Lacy Smallies Laces CP367,, 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. Creative Recreation Infant Cesario Low XVI Trainer CP499,Nike Flex Experience 4 Girls Grade School Black/White/Metallic Silver Running Shoes V35181adidas Originals Junior Tubular X Primeknit Trainer CP583,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Kickers Junior Kick Hi Core Boot CP617,Nike Air Max Thea Girls Grade School University Red/White/Black Running Shoes V83162Timberland Junior Earthkeepers 2.0 6 Inch Boot CP690,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Womens Shoes New Balance WC1296 Silver/Purple 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, Hunter Nursery Original Chelsea Boot CP775,Nike Huarache Run Girls Grade School Chalk Blue/Bright Mango/Obsidian/Canary/White Running Shoes V43Jack & Jones Erik Original SC151 Jean CP883,, 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.

adidas Originals Sport Luxe Twill Fleece Hooded Top CP950,Nike Huarache Run Girls Grade School Wolf Grey/White/Cool Grey/Hyper Pink Running Shoes V99792Criminal Damage Shoreditch Hooded Top CP1035,, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Nicce Track Hooded Top CP1109,Adidas Crazy 1 Mens Tribe Yellow/Black Basketball Shoes V81864Under Armour Stom Fleece Overhead Hooded Top CP1174,.

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, Bellfield Horow 3-In-1 Rain Jacket CP1239,Nike Roshe One Flight Weight Girls Grade School Copa/Insignia Blue/Pure Platinum/Vivid Pink RunningCreative Recreation Davies Drop Needle Bomber Jacket CP1325,.

Womens Shoes New Balance W520v2 Coral/Blue

Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Gensen Harrington Jacket CP1381,Adidas Crazy Light Boost Mens Light Scarlet/Black Basketball Shoes V61675Original Penguin Hooded Ratner Jacket CP1488,. "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. "Asylum Lone Destroy Ripped Jean CP824,Adidas Crazy Light Boost Mens Tech Grey/Light Scarlet/Black Basketball Shoes V80616adidas Originals Premium Essentials Fleece Short CP2063,."

Womens Shoes Nike Free 5.0 Fuchsia Flash/Pink Pow/Hot Lava/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.Glorious Gangsta Hyatt Short CP2140,Adidas Crazy 8 Mens White Basketball Shoes V86042Creative Recreation Toluca Swim Short CP2305,. 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.

"Ellesse Oriani Track Top CP3545,Adidas D Lillard 1 Mens Black/Frozen Green/Scarlet Basketball Shoes V18730Nike Hybrid Pack Suit CP3620,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Timberland Splitrock 2 Boot CP3782,Adidas D Rose 6 Mens Black/Talc/Brown Basketball Shoes V29126Clarks Originals Desert Vulc Low Shoe CP3891,," 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.

Womens Shoes Nike Zoom Winflo 2 Copa/Hyper Orange/White/White

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

adidas Originals Adi Ease Woven Trainer CP4009,Adidas D Rose 773 4 Mens Maroon/White/Maroon Basketball Shoes V63170adidas Originals Busenitz Trainer CP4075,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

adidas Originals Hamburg Trainer CP4176,Adidas J Wall Mens Light Onix/Black/White Basketball Shoes V61409Bjorn Borg X100 Low Rub Trainer CP4255,, 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.

Womens Shoes Nike Tri Fusion Run Chalk Blue/Concord/Blue Tint/White 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, Creative Recreation Cesario Low XVI Wool Trainer CP4324,Adidas D Rose Lakeshore Mid Boost Mens Black/Gum Basketball Shoes V19518Gourmet 35 Lite BK Trainer CP4460,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

Le Coq Sportif R950 Jacquard Trainer CP4540,Adidas J Wall Mens Light Onix/Black/White Basketball Shoes V61387Nike Paul Rodriguez CTD Canvas Trainer CP4649,. He speaks basic Japanese, which he picked up watching anime series such as "One Piece" and "Detective Conan."

Nike Air Foamposite Pro Trainer CP4749,Adidas Energy Boost 2 Mens Heathered Dark Onix/Carbon/Solar Blue Running Shoes V57925Nike Lunar Force 1 Duckboot CP4848,," 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.

Ralph Lauren Polo Hanford Canvas Trainer CP4942,Adidas Adizero Boston 5 Mens Flash Green/Black/White Running Shoes V53502Vans 106 Vulcanised Trainer CP5060,.

Womens Sandals PATRIZIA Soren Taupe 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."

Eeight Womens Dana Cut Out Boot CP5151,Adidas Pure Boost Mens Black/White Running Shoes V31228Gandys Womens Original Flip Flop CP5221,.

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.

Womens Shoes adidas Sonic Attack White/Tech Silver Metallic/Frozen Yellow,Adidas Solar Boost Mens Solar Blue/Dark Grey/Solar Blue Running Shoes V76070Womens Shoes adidas Outdoor Boat Slip-On Sleek Mid Grey/Dark Grey/Flash Red,.

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

Womens Boots Aerosoles In An Instint Black,Adidas Adilette Trefoil Mens Slime/Black/White Slippers V75248Womens Sandals Aerosoles A2 by Aerosoles Wip Current Black PU,.

Unisex Shoes PUMA Liga Suede Classic Darm Denim/White Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

Womens Shoes Aerosoles Solsa Dance Black,Adidas Originals Adilette Mens Brazil/Green/Yellow/Blue Slippers V41115Womens Shoes Aerosoles A2 by Aerosoles Marimba Red,. 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 Sandals ALDO Macamik Black,Adidas Ace 15.2 Fg/Ag Mens Solar Blue/Silver Metallic/Solar Yellow Soccer Shoes V76073Womens Shoes ALDO Astarenna Cognac,, 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 Anne Klein Cailina Black/Black Fabric,Adidas X 15.3 Fg/Ag Mens Black/Solar Yellow/Night Metallic Soccer Shoes V28547Womens Shoes Anne Klein Thyra Natural Leather,.

Womens Shoes Reebok Ros Workout TR Night Beacon/Electric Blue/Icono Pink/White/Black 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 Sandals Badgley Mischka Carey Silver,Adidas Barricade Court Mens Bright Yellow/Iron Metallic/Black Tennis Shoes V42734Womens Boots C Label Binky-4 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 C Label Milan-10 Silver,Nike Air Max Tailwind 8 Mens Cool Grey/Pure Platinum/White/Black Running Shoes V47490Womens Boots Calvin Klein Grecia Black Kid Suede/Elastic,, 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 Sandals Calvin Klein Adina Black Leather/Neoprene,Nike Air Max 2015 Mens Black/White Running Shoes V31529Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Lina Black Cow Silk,.

Family ties

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

Womens Boots Rocket Dog Venise Chestnut Hush 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 Shoes Calvin Klein Calida Teal Matte Lizard Print Leather,Nike Air Max 90 Mens Dark Grey/Dark Grey Running Shoes V50175Womens Boots CARLOS by Carlos Santana Helene Black,, Care Port Itabashi.  

Womens Boots Clarks Palma Rena Taupe Leather,Nike Air Max 95 Mens University Red/Wolf Grey/Black/Pure Platinum/White Running Shoes V83494Womens Sandals Clarks Un Dory Light Tan Leather,, 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. 

Womens Shoes Rocket Dog Spins Black Atlas

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 Sandals Clarks Hayla Heaven Black,Nike Air Zoom Odyssey Mens Bright Crimson/Volt/Ghost Green/Black Running Shoes V41924Womens Shoes Clarks Shira Nicole Black Leather,.  

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 Clarks Tri Active Black Leather,Nike Flex Run 2015 Mens Cool Grey/Bright Crimson/University Red Running Shoes V46702Womens Boots COACH Sage Black Rubber,. 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 Sandals COACH Sherry Nude,Nike Flyknit Lunar 3 Mens Total Orange/Blue Lagoon/Laser Orange/Black Running Shoes V81144Womens Shoes COACH Brady Black Semi Matte Calf,."

Womens Boots Cole Haan Callie Slip On Shearling Waterproof Chestnut Shearling,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

Womens Sandals Cole Haan Hart Wedge Black,Adidas Barricade V Classic Womens White/Silver Metallic/Light Onix Tennis Shoes V94282Womens Shoes Cole Haan Amalia Skimmer Black Suede/Black,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Womens Shoes Cole Haan Avery En Pointe Ballet Sugar Plum,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

3 months for $9

Womens Boots ECCO Sculptured 75 Ankle Boot Green Gables,Nike Air Max Excellerate Womens Anthracite/Chalk Blue/Wolf Grey/Metallic Platinum Running Shoes V109Womens Sandals ECCO Touch 25 T-Strap Slide Moon Rock/Moon Rock,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

Womens Shoes ECCO Felicia Marine,Nike Air Max 1 Womens Black/Tide Pool Blue/Pure Platinum/Deep Royal Blue Running Shoes V29148Womens Sandals GUESS Davanda Silver Leather,

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

Womens Shoes GUESS Heya Black Suede,Nike Air Max Thea Womens Black/White Running Shoes V32320Womens Boots Naturalizer Jarrett Classic Navy Suede/Brown Leather,
Womens Sandals Naturalizer Every White Leather,Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 32 Womens Black/White Running Shoes V32326Womens Shoes Naturalizer Joana Black Leather,
  • Nike Roshe One Boys Grade School White/White/Wolf Grey Running Shoes V96375
  • VANS AUTHENTIC MEN US 6.5 BLUE SNEAKERS 2580 [F48q3323]
  • Cheap Nike Air Jordan 6 GS - Infrared 2014 #384665-023
  • Latest Fila Artoni Swim Peacoat Shorts for Men On Sale
  • Where Do You Buy Nike Park Vi Ss Jersey Gold Mens 4857
  • 100% original Reebok Zigkick Wild Running Size NR46647 for Women
  • UK Women Asics Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 DK Green brown Yellow Beige Sho L5j6602 Loved Around
  • Puma Leadcat top Quality Suede Limited Edition Puma Black Gold Men/Women Sandal Slides 365758-01 cheap
  • Converse Women Metallic Chuck Taylor Low Top On Sale Black
  • Nike Women's Shox Junior Running Shoes Black/Metallic Silver
  • Salomon Hime Mid Ltr CSWP
  • Where to Order Cheap Jordan Super.Fly 5 PO Armory Navy Electrolime 881571-405
  • G-Star Men's Shoes CAMPUS RAW SCOTT III - High-top trainers - navy
  • Cheap Nike Kevin Durant 10 X White Royalblue Black
  • Nike Kobe 11 Elite GCR Men Nike Kobe 10 7 start Kobe 11 Kobe 11 Nike Kobe 11 Nike News Online Premium Performance Nike Basketball Elite Nike Kobe 11 Elite Low Clearance Elite 4KB
  • Men's - Adidas Grand Slam Run White / Grey Shoes
  • Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 Shoes Kanye West s Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Release certificate Date Shoes Where To Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 Oxford get Tan Shoes
  • Cheep Men'S Hermes Slippers VGF0114
  • MENS ADIDAS ENERGY CLOUD TRIPLE WHITE RUNNING SHOES MEN 'S SELECT YOUR SIZE
  • Cheap UK I7O2X Nike Air Max 1 Men's Shoes - Vintage Green/Black Camo
  • Nike Flex Fury 2 Womens Fierce Purple/Black/White/Bright Crimson Running Shoes V53366