adidas Originals Los Angeles Trainer CP4106 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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It is demanding work, Womens Shoes Clarks Fianna Carlie Brown Leather,Womens Boots ALDO Cecille Black LeatherWomens Shoes Clarks Cordella Alto Orange Leather,.

"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 Boots COACH Sparrow Black Cherry/Black Calf/Nylon,Womens Boots ALDO Bergson Black LeatherWomens Sandals COACH Cottage Chalk Soft Vegan Leather,, 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 Sandals COACH Caterine Natural,Womens Boots ALDO Cirede Black NubuckWomens Shoes COACH Chrissy Natural Black Wild Beast Pebble Grain Leather,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Womens Shoes COACH Idena Black/Black/Soft Milled Leather/Semi Matt Calf,Womens Boots ALDO Miresa Black LeatherWomens Shoes COACH Corey Black Calf Suede,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Cheap 8wv8g ca2qz5 August Deals Nike Roshe Run Mens 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 Boots Cole Haan Dorian Stretch Boot Black,Womens Sandals ALDO Dolci GoldWomens Sandals Cole Haan Elsie Cross Wedge 40 II Acorn,, 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, Womens Shoes Cole Haan Neara Pump Zinfandel Perf,Womens Shoes ALDO Ocaun SilverUnisex Shoes Converse by John Varvatos Chuck Taylor All Star Multi-Eyelet Gargoyle/Turtledove,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Womens Boots ECCO Touch 25 Ankle Boot Birch,Womens Shoes ALDO Zelicia CognacWomens Sandals ECCO Rivas 75 Navajo Brown/Navajo Brown,. "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 ECCO Taisha Black,Womens Shoes ALDO Forquer-U GoldWomens Shoes ECCO Soft VII Tie Black/Black,."

Discount 3h3hi e9bnfv Cheap Nike Air Max 90 Womens Flower Shoes 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 Sandals GUESS Edgy Navy/Navy,Womens Shoes ALDO Newbrook ChampagneWomens Shoes GUESS Eloy Black/Silver Lace,. 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

Womens Shoes Naturalizer Maude Coffee Bean Leather,Womens Boots Anne Klein Fedya Black SuedeWomens Shoes Naturalizer Venue Classic Navy Leather,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Womens Shoes New Balance W890V5 Silver/Blue,Womens Sandals Anne Klein Minerva Black ReptilsWomens Shoes New Balance 560v6 Grey/Silver/Sea Glass,, 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.

Discount uhhex ccc5ys August Deals Nike Air Max 95 Womens 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 New Balance Classics 574 - Core Plus Grey/Red,Womens Sandals Anne Klein Minerva Teal Lagoon ReptileWomens Shoes Nike Free 5.0 TR Fit 5 Black/Dark Grey/White/White,, 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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Online smuvd 46fnx9 August Deals Nike Air Max 2016 Womens Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

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"It is impossible for Japanese to create a very competitive technology-based company unless we globalize internally,Womens Shoes Saucony Cohesion 8 Navy/Berry/Citron,Womens Shoes Anne Klein Zee Dark Orange Multi FabricWomens Shoes Superga 2750 Fabric Bahamas Tropical Azul/Multi,, 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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Mikitani's revelation came during a lunch session with Indian engineers. Womens Boots UGG Akadia Stout Leather,Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Adonis II PlatinoWomens Boots UGG Kyra Chestnut Suede,.

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 UGG Fierce Glacier Suede,Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Seneca Latte SatinWomens Shoes Under Armour UA SF Flash FG Alpine/Constellation Purple,, 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 Sandals Vaneli Dandy Multi Darry Print,Womens Shoes Badgley Mischka Seneca Ivory SatinWomens Shoes Vaneli Modesta Platino Metallic Nappa,.

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. 

Among those whose skills are in great demand is Marliezl Abud, Womens Shoes Vaneli Akila T.Moro Ecco Suede/Dark Brown Saffiano Royal 85,Womens Boots C Label Cupcake-3E CamelWomens Shoes Vaneli Darcy Navy Suede/Matching Elastic,, Care Port Itabashi.  

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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 Dri-FIT Sport Essentials Printed,Womens Boots C Label Dainty - 28 BlackNike Dri-FIT Knit Half-Zip,.  

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, Running Hooded Lightweight Jacket,Womens Sandals C Label Napoli-18 TanWomen's Access 2.0 Jacket,. 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," Italia Casual Polo,Womens Shoes C Label Tavi-1 BlackJordan Ultimate Flight Clouds,."

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