Puma x Fenty by Rihanna Velvet Creepers Purple 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

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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, Nike Air Max Latest 2015 Shoes Sport Turquoise Platinum Black Pure,New BalanceWX822v2 - Fresh Foam,Nike Kobe 10 UConn National Best Championship PE Special Crimson Navy Metallic Navy Silver,, 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. Nike LeBron Soldier Hot 9 IX Think Hyper 749420 601 Black Pink White Clearance,Nike Free 1.0 Cross Bionic,Personalisation Nike Air Max 2017 White/Black Premium Websites 849559-100 LD-Zero 2016,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Top Quality Nike Air Jordan 6 Rings Black White Matte Silver 322992-021,Nike NSW Tiempo Trainer,Under Armour Curry One SC30 Select Camp Turquoise Hyper Punch Raspberry Fashion,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

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The demand for construction workers is intensifying before the 2020 Olympics, wholesale Kobe 9 outlet Elite Hero Where to buy Neo Turquoise Purple White,Timberland Euro Dub,2016 Sale Nike Air Max 1 Trainers Men's Print Charcoal Grey Black White Purple,, 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, 2017 Buy Online Nike Shoes Men's Nike Zoom Hyperrev 2015 Persian Violet/Ink/Volt Shoes Canada EGM5901008,Asics Gel Saga 'Monochrome' Black/Black Item UK0026,2017 Cool Nikes Men's Nike Zoom Hyperrev 2016 Limited Navy/Red Shoes Canada WHN8501009,.

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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. "2017 Nike Basketball Shoes Men's Nike Zoom Sb Stefan Janoski Canvas Team Red/Black/White Shoes Canada PIS9202236,Nike Roshe One Wolf Grey/White Item UK0159,2017 Nike Casual Men's Nike Vapor Untouchable Pro Pf 839924 230 Shoes Canada XPE8801303,."

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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.2017 Nike F Men's Nike Air Max Tr180 Anthracite/Black/Persian Violet/White Shoes Canada NLD4803701,Adidas Skateboarding Silas Vulc Core Black/Footwear White/Power Red Item UK0276,2017 Nike Free Men's Air Jordan Xx9 Retro/Light Green Spark/White/Black Shoes Canada GFC060249,. 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.

Gravis Womens Lowdown SO (black) 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, 2017 Nike World Men's Nike Free 5.0 Light Retro/Electric Green/Volt/Black Shoes Canada SUU0001852,Vans Classic Slip-On Black/Black Item UK0641,2017 Popular Nikes Men's Nike Mercurial Victory V Fg Bright Mango/Hyper Turquoise/Metallic Silver Shoes Canada AHQ1902590,, 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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New Balance Women WL999GMT 999 Meteorite (navy / pigment) Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

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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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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. Cheap Kobe Bryant 6 Grinch,GRACIELLE Black 0VFHMN Marian,Cheap Lebron James 10 Low Watermelon,, via a loyalty point system.

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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. 

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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. Discount Cheap Nike KD 6 NSW Lifestyle "Birthday" Light Grey Anthracite White 621177-001,KURT GEIGER LONDON - Dome suede embellished chelsea boots Black LCPOST,For Sale Cheap Nike KD 7 BHM Black History Month,.  

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.

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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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