New Era NY Pitcher Backpack CP78 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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It is demanding work, Womens Boots ALDO Wenade Fuchsia,adidas Originals Busenitz Trainer CP4024Womens Shoes ALDO Luveday Pewter,.

"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 ALDO Mattiace Red,adidas Originals Spezial Trainer CP4045Womens Boots Anne Klein Damina Black Leather,, 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 Sandals Anne Klein 7Questa Black Synthetic,adidas Originals Busenitz Trainer CP4026Womens Shoes Anne Klein Myles Navy Twinkle,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Womens Shoes Anne Klein Beamer Ivory Multi Fabric,adidas Originals Energy Boost ESM Trainer CP4047Womens Shoes Anne Klein Rampup Navy Multi Fabric,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Nike SB FTM Chino 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 Badgley Mischka Musica Light Pink Satin,adidas Originals Top Ten Hi Leather Trainer CP4030Womens Boots C Label Cathy-8B Olive,, 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 Calvin Klein Ulie Ematite,adidas Originals Adi-Ease Trainer CP4098Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Gailia Ematite Metallic Box,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Carine Black/Mixed Black Leather,adidas Originals Rayado Trainer CP4081Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Brady White/Black Striation 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 Boots CARLOS by Carlos Santana Havana Black,adidas Originals Hamburg Trainer CP4145Womens Sandals CARLOS by Carlos Santana Finesse Brulee,."

Golf Solid Tech Skirt 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 Boots Clarks Volara Melody Rust Leather,adidas Originals Superstar Mono Trainer CP4138Womens Sandals Clarks Un Dory Black Leather,. 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.

"Womens Sandals Clarks Hayla Flute Tan Leather,adidas Originals ZX Flux Camo Trainer CP4121Womens Sandals Clarks Preslet Stone Black,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Womens Shoes Clarks Amelia Page White Leather,adidas Originals ZX Flux Trainer CP4166Womens Shoes Clarks Daelyn Towne Black Leather/Black,," 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.

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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 Clarks Corabeth Abby Champagne Leather,Asics GT-II Trainer CP4199Womens Boots COACH Sparrow Chalk/Chalk Calf/Nylon,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Womens Sandals COACH Alyssa Black/Ivory/Black Rubber/Ocelot,Armani Jeans Patent Logo Trainer CP4193Womens Shoes COACH Chrissy Natural Black Wild Beast Pebble Grain Leather,, 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.

Nike Big Swoosh Cut-Out 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, Womens Shoes COACH Ray Khaki/Chestnut,Beck & Hersey Remis Trainer CP4248Womens Boots Cole Haan Primrose Riding Boot Extended Calf Black,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

Womens Boots Cole Haan Tioga Bootie II Chestnut Leather,Asics Gel-Lyte EVO 'Samurai Pack' Trainer CP4232Womens Shoes Cole Haan Chelsea OT Pump Sandstone Patent,. He speaks basic Japanese, which he picked up watching anime series such as "One Piece" and "Detective Conan."

Womens Shoes Cole Haan Chelsea Black Heel Pump Orchid Ocelot Print Haircalf,Converse Star Player Ox Trainer CP4277Womens Shoes Cole Haan Zerogrand Maryjane Astral Blue Neoprene/Mesh,," 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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Men's Standard 19 Track Jacket 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."

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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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UK Sale Nike Zoom Kobe 8 VIII Mens Shoes Red Special pgWcRqh6 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 Naturalizer Orianne Navy,Cruyff Vanenburg X-LITE Trainer CP4419Womens Shoes New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay Silver/Purple,, 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 Shoes New Balance WX88v1 Blue/Red,Cruyff Vanenburg X-LITE Cobra Trainer CP4425Womens Shoes New Balance Classics WL515 Grey/Lavender Suede/Mesh,.

Wholesale Trade Nike Flight Posite Pro For Men in NJ22RpDu 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 Nike Zoom Cage 2 Hot Lava/Cool Grey/Metallic Gold Star,Hugo Boss Spacito Trainer CP4481Womens Shoes Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 32 Flash Noble Purple/Vivid Purple/Copa/Reflect Silver,.

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 Nike Free Viritous Black/Dark Grey/Black,Lacoste Premium Leather Gazon Slip-on Trainer CP4518Womens Sandals PATRIZIA Derna Black,, 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 PATRIZIA Showpiece Black,New Balance M574 Reflective Trainer CP4553Womens Shoes PUMA Suede Classic Lo Blocks and Stripes Black,.

Family ties

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

Authentic 46qcr am3g2g Cheap Adidas Superstar Womens 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. 

Among those whose skills are in great demand is Marliezl Abud, Womens Shoes Reebok Work 'N Cushion White,Nike Lunar Force 1 Sneakerboot CP4610Womens Shoes Reebok YourFlex Trainette 8.0 L MT Celestial Orchid/Icono Pink/Black/White,, Care Port Itabashi.  

Womens Sandals Rocket Dog Hills Natural Hazey Days,Nike Dunk CMFT Trainer CP4639Womens Boots Sam Edelman Jodie Dark Chocolate,, 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 Sandals Sam Edelman Reid Black,Nike Air Max Tavas Trainer CP4667Womens Shoes Sam Edelman Dea Golden Caramel 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 Saucony Guide 8 Grey/Sunset/Citron,Nike Air Trainer 3 CP4685Womens Shoes Superga 2311 Wavedpuw Cognac,. 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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