Mens Nike Air Max White Nike Air Max 90 Mid NO SEW New Zealand Hot Sale No.2745 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

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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, Men's - Nike Bruin Mid Hyper Red / Sail-Team Red Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas Ultra Boost Sneakers Deep Blue Black No.1960Men's - Nike Blazer Low V Black / Black Shoes,, 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 - Nike Avid Wolf Grey / Italy Blue-White Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas Ultra Boost Shoes Orange Black No.1951Men's - Nike Air Waffle Trainer Cool Grey / Soar-White-Black Shoes,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Men's - Nike Air Trainer SC High Premium QS Broken Bats White / Wolf Grey Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas Ultra Boost Shoes Deep Blue Gold White No.1947Men's - Nike Air Shox NZ 2.0 White / White-Anthracite-Black Shoes,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Loafers & Slip-Ons Men Salvatore Ferragamo Parigi Leather Bit Loafer NavyBlue Online Cheap 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 - Nike Air Pippen Black / Flash lime-Anthracite Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas Ultra Boost Shoes Black Deep Gray No.1938Men's - Nike Air Max+ 2012 Black / Black-New Green Shoes,, 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 - Nike Air Max Coliseum Racer Black / White-Total Orange-Total Crimson Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas Superstar Mable Shoes Royal Blue White No.1895Men's - Nike Air Max 95 Premium Tape Pewter Brown / Team Red-Anthracite-Atomic Red Shoes,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Men's - Nike Air Max 90 Premium LE QS CBF Pack Black / Black Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas Stan Smith Shoes Serpentine White No.1878Men's - Nike Air Max 90 EM White / White-Black-Infrared Shoes,. "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. "Men's - Nike Air Max 1 PRM Tape Glow In The Dark White / Geyser Grey-Lab Green Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas SL LOOP CT Shoes Yellow Brown Black No.1837Men's - Nike Air Maestro Flight Anthracite / Cool Grey-White Shoes,."

Loafers & Slip-Ons Men Deer Stags Bound Work Slip-On Brown SALE 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.Men's - Nike Air Force 1 Tropical Teal / White-Wolf Grey Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas Pure Boost Zero Gravity Shoes Gray White No.1826Men's - Nike Air Force 1 Low SP Monotone Vol. 1 Cool Grey / Cool Grey-Mid Fog Shoes,. 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.

Lebron Nike Elite Zoom Xii 12 P.s. Mens Chinese Red Yellow New 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, Men's - Native Miller Shell White Shoes,Mens Adidas Shoes Adidas Neo Low Top Shoes Charcoal Gray Orange Green No.1730Men's - K-Swiss Clean Classic White / Stin Gray Shoes,, 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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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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Latest Etnies Rap CT Black Skate Shoes for Men On Sale 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. Men's - Air Jordan Sixty Club Preschool Wolf Grey / Dark Grey-White Shoes,Mens adidas Lightest Originals Famous ZX Flux Shoes Navy AU Blue/WhiteMen's - Air Jordan Retro 3 Pure Money White/Metallic Silver Shoes,.

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. Men's - Air Jordan Phase 23 Trek Black / Anthracite-Black Shoes,Men's - Nike Shox Conundrum White / Varsity Royal-Dark Grey-Black ShoesMen's - Air Jordan Melo M10 Anthracite / Gym Red-Black-White Shoes,, 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," Men's - Air Jordan Hydro II White / Club Purple-Black Shoes,Men's - Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski Premium SE Base Grey / Black-Medium Base Grey ShoesMen's - Air Jordan Flight 9 Preschool White / Perfect Pink-Stealth Shoes,.

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, Men's - Air Jordan Elements Black / Varsity Royal-White Shoes,Men's - Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski Clay / Union Grey-White-Black ShoesMen's - Air Jordan CMFT Air Max 10 White / Old Royal Shoes,, 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. Men's - Air Jordan 1 Retro Hi Premier Black / Max Orange-White Shoes,Men's - Nike SB Paul Rodriguez 7 Game Royal / Black-White ShoesMen's - Adidas ZX 700 Oak / Oak / Run White Shoes,.  

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, Men's - Adidas Superstar II TL Dot White / Warnin / Rav Green Shoes,Men's - Nike SB Dunk Mid Pro Black / Medium Mint-Sea Crystal ShoesMen's - Adidas Spezial Red / Black Shoes,. 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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