Sperry Mens Athletic-Inspired Red 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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"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 White/White/Red Adidas Originals Stan Smith Weave Sneakers G56367,Get Adidas Isolation 2.0 - Core Black / Night Met. / Night Met. Footwear,Nike Air Max 1 Essential Shoes Black/Pure Platinum/Dove Grey Womens G56938,, 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. Shoes Nike Air Max 90 Silver Wing/Dusty Cactus/Aviator Grey/Hyper Turq Womens G57081,Comfortable Reebok Crossfit Nano 4.0 - Flag Pack Spainchina Red / Retro Yellow / Black / White Footw,Womens Shoes Nike Air Max 2014 Spades purple woman G57195,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. New Balance Womens ML373 Trainer,Cheap Reebok Ul 6000 Gravel / Silvery Green / Neon Cherry Footwear,Reebok Womens Paris Runner Gallery II Trainer,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Men's Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31 Running Shoes Black/White 654486-010 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, Adorable Nike Air Pegasus 92 16 Print Style : 92967778 for Women,Popularity Reebok Transition Flip Black / Red Rush Footwear,Authorization Nike SHOX JUNIOR COMFORT RUNNING 454339 020 Black Metallic Silver 11PI171 for Women,, 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, Top fashion Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 - Tint Glo Peacoat Blue Pink 88LR476 for Women,Wholesale Reebok All Terrain Super Black / Gravel / Silvermet / Flat Grey / Solar Yellow Footwear,Wholesale New Balance WL574SBF B Retro Running Grey Yellow Purple 16147596 for Women,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Cheap Alice + Olivia Poppy Red Shortsleeved Flared Dress For Women Sale,Wholesale Reebok Trainfusion Rs 4.0 Black / Pink / White Footwear,Cheap Givenchy Small Antigona Tote For Women Outlet,. "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. "Cheap Michael Michael Kors Oyster Beige Jet Set Travel Tote For Women Sale,adidas Turbocharged X 16.1 FG Men Green,Cheap Saint Laurent Black Ribbed Lam,."

Men's Nike Free 3.0 V6 Flyknit Shoes Light Gray/Royal Blue 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.Designers Andrea Bogosian Wine Red Embroidered Knit Top For Women Outlet,adidas Originals 350 Men Blue,Designers Eleventy Black Round Neck Shift Blouse For Women Selling Well,. 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.

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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, Latest Hogan Metallic Embellished White Sneakers For Women Online Sale,Nike Air Force 1 '07 Men's Red,Latest Marni Beat Shoulder Bag For Women Sale,, 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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Men's Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukka HTM Running Shoes Light Charcoal 599347 011 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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Mikitani's revelation came during a lunch session with Indian engineers. The Most Popular Msgm Blue/White Fringed Plaid Shorts For Women On Sale,Men's/Women's Adidas Originals Tubular Defiant Shoes Core White S75250,Uma Wang Brown Chidike Coat For Women Online,.

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. Apex Womens Running Shoes Silver/Periwinkle,Men's/Women's Adidas Originals ZX10000 EQT Running Guidance 93 SNS Running Shoes Gray/Mint S82532,Cole Haan Womens Boots Black,, 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.

Men's Nike Zoom Winflo 2 Running Shoes Black/Anthracite/White/Bright Crimson 807276-006 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. 

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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. Nike Free RN Flyknit 2.0 Women's Black,Men's/Women's Asics Gel Lyte V Running Shoes Black/Black H60SQ-9090,2015 Men's Nike Air Zoom Vomero 10 Running Shoes Cool Grey/Black/Blue Lagoon/White 717440-001,.  

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, 310805-003 Air Jordan Retro 10 (X) Stealth Black White Stealth 2012 A10001,Men's/Women's Asics Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 Shoes Orange Glow TH9J4L-0416,Authentic 302370-109 Air Jordan 9 Retro White/Black-Militia Green,. 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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