adidas Originals Superstar Combat Quilt Jacket CP1191 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 Sandals Calvin Klein Jileen Black/Warm Gold Scuba/Box Metallic,Nike Nike Air Force 1 Elite Knit Jacquard VT Trainer CP4776Womens Sandals Calvin Klein Jeans Opel Black Vachetta 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 Shoes Calvin Klein Paulette Winter Taupe Kid Suede/Patent,Nike Flystepper 2K3 Trainer CP4814Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Fiorelle Black/Deep Navy Box Leather/Neoprene,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Womens Shoes Calvin Klein Anabelle Platinum White Leather/Patent,Nike Koth Ultra Mid Trainer CP4857Womens Boots CARLOS by Carlos Santana Havana Wide Shaft Black,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Youth Lineage Track Suit 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 CARLOS by Carlos Santana Helene Black,Nike Stefan Janoski Max L Trainer CP4840Womens Sandals CARLOS by Carlos Santana Farrah Tawny Tan,, 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 Boots Clarks Swansea Grove Black Suede,Nike Air Max 90 Mid Winter Trainer CP4853Womens Sandals Clarks Tiffani Aldora Natural Heather,, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Womens Sandals Clarks Palima Palm Black Leather,Nike Koth Ultra Mid Trainer CP4856Womens Sandals Clarks Hayla Heaven Black,.

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 Clarks Caswell Genoa Taupe,Nike P Rod 8 Trainer CP4594Womens Shoes Clarks Petula Viola Black Suede,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Womens Shoes Clarks Vailee Stone Grey,Puma R698 Core Leather Trainer CP4901Womens Shoes Clarks Leara Blend Sand,. "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 COACH Holiday Chestnut Soft Shine Calf,Puma Basket Trainer CP4916Womens Sandals COACH Shelly Black Semi Matte Calf,."

Wholesale UK Converse All Star Chuck Taylor Hi-Top Miller Endless White Canvas Shoes C5cq9FUP 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 COACH Indie Black/Natural Shearling,Ralph Lauren Polo Harvey SP Suede Trainer CP4959Womens Shoes COACH Orlene Mink Calf Suede,. 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 Cole Haan Jodhpur Boot Sequoia,Ralph Lauren Polo Harvey-NE Trainer CP4962Womens Boots Cole Haan Callie Slip On Waterproof Blazer Blue Patent,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Womens Sandals Cole Haan Rossi Wedge Black,Puma Trinomic R698 Bright Trainer CP4926Womens Shoes Cole Haan Grant Chesnut Gold Snake Print,," 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 Shoes Cole Haan Cary Woodbury,Reebok Furylite Tonal Trainer CP5000Womens Shoes Cole Haan Elsie Logo Wedge II Blazer Blue WP Patent,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Womens Shoes Cole Haan Fair Haven Pump Gold Metallic,Reebok Furylite Trainer CP5003Womens Boots ECCO Touch 35 Black,, 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 Sandals Ecco Performance Kana Sandal Shadow White,Supra Estaban Trainer CP5029Womens Shoes ECCO Touch 15 Buckle Black/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 Sandals PATRIZIA Lansing Black,Birkenstock Womens Gizeh Sandal CP5218Womens Sandals PATRIZIA Nerina Natural,, 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, Unisex Shoes PUMA Match 74 White/Fern Green,adidas Originals Womens Gazelle OG Trainer CP5255Womens Shoes PUMA Ignite Mesh Cayenne/Astral Aura,.

Buy xg3tw m3dgun Cheap Adidas Superstar Womens Pink Shoes 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 Reebok Trailgrip RS 4.0 Night Beacon/Alloy/Collegiate Navy/Luminous Lime,Womens Shoes adidas Daily Bind Black/Pink/Frozen YellowWomens Boots Rocket Dog Weekender Black Galaxy/Glazed,.

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 Rocket Dog Tadley Black Trails,Womens Shoes adidas Stella McCartney Barricade 2015 Minty Green/White Vapor/Light Flash GreenWomens Sandals Sam Edelman Giselle Black/New Nude Leopard,, 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 Sam Edelman Ola Modern Ivory Snake,Womens Shoes adidas Cloudfoam Xpression Core Black/White/Flash RedWomens Shoes Sam Edelman Lacey Black,.

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 Saucony Ride 8 Red/Black,Womens Shoes adidas Gymbreaker Bounce Black/Matte Silver/Shock PinkWomens Shoes Superga 2905 Cotw Linea Up And Down Navy,, 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. Womens Boots UGG Classic Tall Tasman Brownstone,Womens Shoes adidas Running CC Fresh 2 W Grey/Silver Metallic/Light Flash OrangeWomens Shoes UGG Syleste Seagull Textile,.  

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 Slippers UGG Dakota Liberty Blush Floral,Womens Shoes adidas Outdoor Response Trail Boost Light Brown/Ash Purple/Solar RedWomens Sandals Vaneli Baxie Multi Darry Print/Match Zip,. 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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