Nike Kids Free 5.0 Dove Grey/Electric Green/Volt/Black UK#N5-9362 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

Womens Sandals Aerosoles Zenchilada Black,Cruyff CFI Slider Sandal CP3828Womens Sandals Aerosoles Savant Black Combo,. 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, Womens Sandals Aerosoles Plushed Metal Tan,Hugo Boss Shoreline Water Sandal CP3849Womens Shoes Aerosoles A2 by Aerosoles Rock Solid White Combo,.

"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 Aerosoles A2 by Aerosoles Rock Solid Pink Stripe,Birkenstock Arizona Sandal CP3821Womens Boots ALDO Ladosa Bordo Suede,, 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 Shoes ALDO Carminati Bronze,adidas Originals Supercolor Track Top CP3519Womens Boots Anne Klein Joetta Cognac/Cognac,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Womens Boots Anne Klein Camdenw Brilliant Suede,Clae Ellington Leather Shoe CP3876Womens Shoes Anne Klein Petrica Pewter Leather,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Men's Battle Pocket Tee 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 Anne Klein Meg Grey Reptile,Dr. Martens Smiths 4-Eye Shoe CP3905Womens Shoes Anne Klein Zee Dark Orange Multi Fabric,, 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.

Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Thora White Satin,The North Face Base Camp Flip Flop CP3869Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Ponderosa Latte Diamond Drill Fabric,, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Womens Sandals C Label Adler-14 Orange,Clae Strayhorn Leather Shoe CP3873Womens Sandals C Label Cider-5 Tan,.

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 Boots Calvin Klein Bionda Shadow Grey Kid Suede,Timberland Newmarket Boat Shoe CP3935Womens Sandals Calvin Klein Aloris Black,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Womens Sandals Calvin Klein Collection Cody Grape,adidas Originals Hamburg Trainer CP3956Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Galice Black/Black,. "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 Calvin Klein Ginae Ematite/Winter Taupe Metallic Box/Kid Suede,adidas Originals ZX Flux NPS Trainer CP3959Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Anabelle Lipstick Red Leather/Patent,."

Nike Tempo Rival Printed 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 CARLOS by Carlos Santana Gramercy Cognac,Timberland Classic Boat Shoe CP3933Womens Sandals CARLOS by Carlos Santana Finesse Fuchsia,. 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 Shoes CARLOS by Carlos Santana Serafina Champagne,adidas Originals Superstar East River Rivalry Trainer CP3986Womens Sandals Clarks Tiffani Aldora Natural Heather,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Womens Sandals Clarks Amelia Joyce White Floral,adidas Originals Hamburg Trainer CP3991Womens Sandals Clarks Hayla Pier Pewter,," 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 Felicia Plum Black Leather,adidas Originals ZX 8000 Boost Trainer CP4014Womens Shoes Clarks Bavette Cathy Dark Brown,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Womens Shoes Clarks Ciera Gull Nutmeg Leather,adidas Originals ZX Flux Print Trainer CP4029Womens Sandals COACH Platt Saddle,, 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 Strike Graphic Woven 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 Sandals COACH Judy Black/Brown/Bronze,adidas Originals ZX Flux Trainer CP4022Womens Shoes COACH Smith Black Suede,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

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Womens Sandals Cole Haan Air Melissa Buckle Thong Black,adidas Originals Los Angeles Trainer CP4113Womens Shoes Cole Haan Juliana Pump 45 Blazer Blue Patent,," 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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Nike Art 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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Men's Prime Dry-Dye Tee Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

Womens Shoes GUESS Karey Black Multi,Bjorn Borg X100 Low Metal Trainer CP4250Womens Boots Naturalizer Brenna Black Smooth,. 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 Naturalizer Zephar Taupe Leather,Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Leather Trainer CP4276Womens Shoes Naturalizer Verra Black Leather/Printed Iguana,, 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 WW847 White/Blue,Cortica Epic Runner Trainer CP4311Womens Shoes New Balance Vazee Rush Purple/White,.

UK Sale Adidas Adicolor Shoes Women Yellow Black qAwUTZeF 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 New Balance Classics 620 - Redwoods Red/Grey,Creative Recreation Kaplan Perforated Trainer CP4338Womens Shoes Nike Free 5.0 TR Fit 5 Black/Dark Grey/White/White,.

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 Internationalist Black/Mulberry/Midnight Navy/String,Creative Recreation Cesario Low XVI Wool Trainer CP4325Womens Shoes Nike Revolution 3 Voltage Green/Dark Grey/White/Hyper Pink,, 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 PATRIZIA Highness Black,Cruyff Vanenburg X-LITE Trainer CP4410Womens Sandals PATRIZIA Dema Silver,.

Family ties

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

Wholesale Trade 2017/18 Nike Air Yeezy 2 Sp Max 90 The Devil Series Trainers Velcro All Black Mens Shoes jLZk0y62 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 PATRIZIA Alcea Navy,Cruyff Vanenburg X-LITE Trainer CP4418Womens Shoes PUMA Faas 500 v4 Clearwater/Blue Coral,, Care Port Itabashi.  

Womens Shoes Reebok Crossfit Lite Tr Poly Dreamy Blue/Reebok Navy,Cruyff Vanenburg X-LITE Trainer CP4435Womens Sandals Rocket Dog Frisbee Silver Glam Squad,, 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 Shoes Rocket Dog Trenty Almond Ballerina,Kenzo Sonic Gummy Mesh Trainer CP4501Womens Boots Sam Edelman Malone Deep Saddle (Rust),.  

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 Sam Edelman Eloise Black,Le Coq Sportif R950 Jacquard Trainer CP4539Womens Shoes Saucony Spitfire 2 White/Purple,. 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 Shoes Saucony Originals Jazz O Rainbow Grey/Blue,Nike Air Safari Trainer CP4596Womens Boots Timberland Icon 6" Premium Boot Grey Nubuck Mono,."

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