Nike Zoom Vomero 10 Mens Wolf Grey/Dark Grey/Photo Blue/Black Running Shoes V97588 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

Nike KD VII Trainer CP4676,Rose London Longline Hooded Top CP1148Nike Air Max 95 Ultra Jacquard Trainer CP4718,. 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 Jordan Westbrook 0 Trainer CP4800,Rose London Javier Sleeveless Hooded Top CP1149Nike Flyknit Trainer Chukka FSB CP4854,.

"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, Ralph Lauren Polo Harvey SP Suede Trainer CP4958,Nike SB Icon Overhead Reflective Hooded Top CP1131Reebok Furylite Chukka Trainer CP5001,, 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. Supra Owen Trainer CP5033,Rose London Pablo Velour Full Zip Hooded Top CP1151Vans Atwood Canvas Trainer CP5115,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Timberland Womens 6 Inch Premium Boot CP5181,Vans Off The Wall Hooded Top CP1184adidas Originals Womens ZX Flux Base Pack Trainer CP5262,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Womens Sandals Vaneli Weezy Black Nappa/Black Darry 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 adidas Adipure 360.2 Vivid Mint/White,Vans Vans Classic Overhead Hooded Top CP1186Womens Shoes adidas BBNEO Raleigh Mid Cyber Metallic / Cyber Metallic / Running White,, 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 adidas Running Galaxy Elite Semi Solar Pink/White/Lucky Pink,UCLA California Hooded Top CP1169Womens Boots Aerosoles One Wish Black,, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Womens Boots Aerosoles Taekwondo Brown,Vans Core Basics Zip Hooded Top CP1181Womens Sandals Aerosoles Magic Plush Dark 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 Shoes Aerosoles A2 by Aerosoles Kaleidescope Light Pink Patent,Bellfield Staten Shearling Puff Jacket CP1233Womens Shoes Aerosoles A2 by Aerosoles Rock Solid Navy Combo,.

Womens Shoes Vaneli SELY Black E-Print

Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Womens Boots ALDO Etassi Rust,Bellfield Malko Biker Jacket CP1226Womens Shoes ALDO Unalevia Cognac,. "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 Anne Klein Cijiw - Wide Calf Cognac Leather,Brave Soul MJK Armour Parka Jacket CP1256Womens Sandals Anne Klein Whitly Black Multi Fabric,."

Womens Shoes Vaneli Ashlen Black E-Suede/Black Miniliz Print/Matching Elastic 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 Shoes Anne Klein AKSport Staycalm Black Fabric,Brave Soul MJK Aberdeen Parka Jacket CP1259Womens Shoes Anne Klein Ardmore Black 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.

"Womens Boots Badgley Mischka Julesa Black/Grey Calf Hair/Leather,Brave Soul Snowden Quilted Puffer Jacket CP1264Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Ponderosa Latte Diamond Drill Fabric,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Womens Sandals C Label Lingo-2 Brown,Brave Soul Dudley Softshell Bomber Jacket CP1279Womens Shoes C Label Clower-5 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.

Unisex Shoes Vans SK8-Hi MTE (MTE) Pendleton/Tribal/Tan

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 Boots Calvin Klein Berrie Dark Cherry Waxy Suede,Brave Soul Sanjay Light Bomber Jacket CP1282Womens Sandals Calvin Klein Adina Platinum White Leather/Neoprene,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Kallie Indigo Nubuck/Cow Kansas,Criminal Damage Space Bomber Jacket CP1327Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Fiorelle Black/Deep Navy Box Leather/Neoprene,, 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.

Hurley One And Only Boyshort 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 Calvin Klein Camella Soft White,EA7 Golf Light Jacket CP1351Womens Boots CARLOS by Carlos Santana Leighton Titanium,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

Womens Boots Clarks Mission Halle Black Leather,Hawksworth Hawkbit Long Jacket CP1405Womens Boots Clarks Enfield Ellen Black Leather,. He speaks basic Japanese, which he picked up watching anime series such as "One Piece" and "Detective Conan."

Womens Sandals Clarks Un Verlee Bronze Leather,Jack & Jones Sammo Hooded Bomber Jacket CP1411Womens Sandals Clarks Tresca Track White,," 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.

Womens Shoes Clarks Candra Glow Nude Leather,Luke 1977 Cyril Jacket CP1435Womens Shoes Clarks Foxvale Spell Black Leather,.

Nike Precision Heather 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."

Womens Shoes Clarks Cordella Chant Beige Leather,Native Youth Arctic Parka Jacket CP1450Womens Boots COACH Gillian Black Vegan Leather,.

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 Sandals COACH May Saddle,Only & Sons Nylon Sleeve Bomber Jacket CP1486Womens Shoes COACH Remonna Black/Pewter Signature,.

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 Cole Haan Graham Short Boot Fatigue Suede,Pop Boutique Harrington Jacket CP1492Womens Boots Cole Haan Draven Short Boot Chestnut,.

ESS Bulky Jacket M Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

Womens Sandals Cole Haan Arlette Sandal II Black/Acorn,The North Face 1985 Rage Celebration Jacket CP1537Womens Shoes Cole Haan Zerogrand Slip-On Sneaker Grey/Optic White/Black,. 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 Shoes Cole Haan Zerogrand Stage Door Ballet Gunmetal Dot Print,Foray Vector Jogger Black CP1688Womens Shoes Cole Haan Fair Haven Pump Ocelot Haircalf,, 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 Boots ECCO Touch 25 Ankle Boot Birch,Bellfield Kirkland Speckled Knit CP1781Womens Shoes ECCO Abelone Stretch Slip On Marine/Marine Firefly Textile,.

Women's Die Marke Tee 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 ECCO Golf Biom Hybrid White/Lime Punch,Jack & Jones Anders Roll Neck Knit CP1828Womens Boots GUESS Elka Black Synthetic,.

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 GUESS Apola Camel Fabric,Asylum Glasto Ripped Denim Short CP2083Womens Boots Hunter Original Tall Bright Cerise,, 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 Naturalizer Josephine Wide Calf Banana Bread,Asylum Turbo Tailored Short CP2081Womens Shoes Naturalizer Ivan Caravan Sand Nubuck,.

Family ties

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

Golf Tech Polo 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 Sandals New Balance Cruz II Thong White/Blue,Franklin & Marshall Big Seal Logo Short CP2139Womens Shoes New Balance 670v1 Silver/Pink,, Care Port Itabashi.  

Womens Shoes New Balance Classics WL574 Core Plus - Pink/Green,Publish Parker Fleece Short CP2195Womens Shoes Nike Air Max Muse White/Fuchsia Flash,, 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. 

Jordan All Around

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 Nike Flex Fury Black/Pink Foil/Sport Fuchsia/White,UCLA Wiggins Fleece Short CP2212Womens Shoes Nike Zoom Fit Fuchsia Glow/Vivid Purple/White/Pure Platinum,.  

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 Sandals PATRIZIA Extravagant Black,Calvin Klein One Logo Tape Swim Short CP2292Womens Sandals PATRIZIA Tosia Silver,. 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," Unisex Shoes PUMA GV Special Basic Sport Grey Violet/Whisper White,Oiler & Boiler Tuckernuck Shortie Swimmer Short CP2331Womens Shoes PUMA Ignite Mesh Clearwater/Poseidon,."

Womens Boots Rocket Dog Sebastian Brown Burnie,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

Womens Sandals Rocket Dog Fairytale Black Macrame Rope,adidas Originals Racer Lite Trainer CP3983Womens Boots Sam Edelman Caldwell Natural Python,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Womens Sandals Sam Edelman Kayde Soft Nude Talco Kid Leather,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

3 months for $9

Womens Shoes Sam Edelman Augusta Natural Shiny Python Print,adidas Originals Gazelle OG Trainer CP4063Womens Shoes Saucony Sapphire Vizi Pink/Fade,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

Womens Shoes Superga 2750 Velvet Space Black Multi,adidas Originals Samba Trainers CP4073Womens Boots UGG Dree Dark Chestnut,

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

Womens Boots UGG Oregon Stout Twinface/Leather,adidas Originals ZX Flux Mesh Trainer CP4163Womens Boots UGG Reignfall Liberty Blush Floral,
Womens Shoes UGG Audrey Exotic Antique White Leather,Asics Gel-Lyte V Trainer CP4213Womens Boots Vaneli Jacie Black Suede/Black T. Nicole,
  • Nike Tech Fleece AW77 Hooded Top CP1115
  • Nike Air Max 2015 Black Hyper Crimson Volt
  • Black White Lebron Shoes 2017 Lebron 14 XIV Black Ice
  • adidas Originals Womens Trefoil Crop Hoodie Black 3229L
  • Men Trainers Jack & Jones Tack Mixed Chambray Plimsolls
  • Isabel Marant White Loose-Fit Tank For Women
  • Counter Genuine DIESEL Grained Leather Classic - Black Men's Wallets - 70HR578
  • CHEAP Puma Trinomic R698 Sport W burgundy
  • * 2011 Men Gray Air Max
  • Discount Price For Mens adidas Performance Kanadia 7 Tr Gtx Hiking Shoes Black
  • FILI Cognac EKERCL Mustang
  • MAN Max 2016-0075
  • Shop Nike Lebron Zoom Soldier 8 Wolf Grey Yellow 653642 200
  • Thick Curry Shoes Men Stephen Curry Shoe Search Stephen Curry Shoe
  • Nike Air Max 90 Star Series 2015 Men Running Shoes White Silver
  • Helle Comfort Toast Snake Metallic Nayana YQF632696
  • Free Shipping Kevin Durant KD 9 Men nike kevin durant Shoes Boys Clothing KD 9 KD 8 KD Shoes Nike Kids KD 9 Zoom City Gear reedmakickz Nike Kevin Free Shipping durant KD 9 LMTD Zero Pre
  • Nike Legend Icon (NFL Eagles) 605905-010 Black/Carbon Heather
  • Womens Air Max 2016 KPU Upper Green White
  • Ua Curry 2.5 Basketball Men Shoes Under Armour Clutchfit Drive 2 Canada Clearance Womens Under Armou
  • Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Ox Trainer CP4266