Shopping 159244 Nike Air Max Ultra Women Black Silver Shoes 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, Men's Nike Lunar Ultimate TR Deep Pewter/Total Orange/White UK#N5-9249,Adidas Clima Cool 5th Men Coupon_097,Women's Nike Flex Trainer 5 Print Blue Lagoon/Copa/Game Royal/Black UK#N5-9564,, 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. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Backpack CP38,Adidas Porsche Design IV Men Coupon_184,Converse Infant Chuck Taylor All Star Ox Trainer CP498,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Nike Junior Air Jordan 4 Retro Trainer CP628,Adizero Rose II 773 Men Coupon_283,Kickers Nursery Core Kick High Boot CP779,. 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, Converse Core Full Zip Hooded Top CP994,Asics Mexico 66 Lauta Women Coupon_395,Puma Evolution Full Zip Hooded Top CP1144,, 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, Luke 1977 Molby Swim Short CP2322,Fashion Christian Louboutin Women Coupon_640,Flossy Mens Plimsole CP3793,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, adidas Originals Gazelle OG Trainer CP3947,Jimmy Choo Bridal Women Coupon_749,adidas Originals Los Angeles Trainer CP4108,. "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. "Bjorn Borg X110 Low Suede Trainer CP4260,Jimmy Choo Sandals Women Coupon_856,Cruyff Conductor Trainer CP4412,."

Cheap qzf4x sk97v3 August Deals Nike Air Max 90 Womens Grey 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.New Balance ML373 Trainer CP4563,Jimmy Choo Wedges Women Coupon_939,Nike Air Force 1 Weatherised Duckboot CP4604,. 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.

"Puma Aril Trainer CP4891,New Balance Men Coupon_1047,Supra Stacks Vulc II Trainer CP5044,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively adidas Originals Womens Adilette Slide Sandal CP5205,New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1155,Womens Shoes adidas Fresh Bounce Famous Collegiate Navy/White/Green Glow,," 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 Boots Aerosoles Ride Out Tan,New Balance 574 Men Coupon_1244,Womens Sandals Aerosoles Scone Black Patent,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Womens Boots ALDO Desarea Black Patent,New Balance 996 Men Coupon_1335,Womens Shoes ALDO Newbrook Champagne,, 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.

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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 Anne Klein Gameready Navy FB,New Balance Women Coupon_1386,Womens Shoes ASICS Gel-Essent 2 Pink Glow/Silver/Black,, 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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"It is impossible for Japanese to create a very competitive technology-based company unless we globalize internally,Womens Shoes ECCO Nephi T-Strap Buckle Black Leather,MEN'S NIKE ROMALEOS II POWER LIFTING Volt/Sequoia,Womens Boots GUESS Daris Black Suede,, 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.

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Sale bxawu redz6t August Deals Nike Air Max 90 Mens 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)

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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. Womens Shoes New Balance WX88v1 Black/Silver,Men's Shoe Air Jordan Trainer 1 Low 845403-004,Womens Shoes Nike Lunaracer+ 3 Voltage Green/Blue Lagoon/White/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 Nike Golf Lunar Embellish Pure Platinum/Wolf Grey/White,Men's Shoe Kobe XI Elite 822675-404,Womens Sandals PATRIZIA Yara Bordeaux,.

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. Womens Shoes Saucony Cohesion 8 Navy/Berry/Citron,Men's Shoe Nike Hyperdunk 2016 Flyknit 843390-404,Womens Boots Timberland Authentics Teddy Fleece Fold-Down Wheat Rugged Metallic Finish,.  

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 Boots UGG Damien Black Leather,Men's Shoe Nike Roshe One Hyper Breathe 833125-001,Womens Boots UGG Collection Conchetta Weave Grigio,. 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 Boots Vaneli Reagan Black Nappa/Matching Elastic,Men's Shoe NikeCourt Zoom Cage 2 705247-101,Womens Shoes Vaneli Leodora Black Suede,."

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