Nike Sportswear Men White/Gum Light Brown/White Model:315 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

Price Down Converse Chuck Taylor All Star - Lace-Up Boots - Thunder/Natural/Egret B17a3820,Adidas Jeremy Scott Unisex White Red Shoes Model:A344New Exclusive High-end New Balance Ml565 - Trainers - Navy/Red B94i3761,. Along with a group of Japanese colleagues, they will spend the day moving heavy wooden pilings and pouring concrete for the foundation of a seven-story condominium block. 

It is demanding work, Charms New Balance Ml1980 - Trainers - Black H63l2892,Adidas ZX 750 Unisex Brown White Shoes Model:A1227Beautifu Nike Sportswear Blazer Mid Premium Vintage - High-Top Trainers - Wolf Grey/Sail/White H11a8,.

"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, Provide Factory Price Nike Sportswear Air Max 90 Ultra Br - Trainers - Black/Dark Grey/Black T100c57,Adidas Superstar 2 Unisex White Blue Shoes Model:A1005Charming Nike Sb Stefan Janoski Max - Trainers - Obsidian/White F75z3120,, 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. Top Quality Nike Sportswear Elite Shinsen - Trainers - Black/Metallic Silver/Sail O55t1547,Adidas ZX 750 Unisex Grey Blue Black Green Shoes Model:A1235Best Reebok Classic Gl 6000 Mid - High-Top Trainers - Dark Sage/Chalk Y32x8684,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Provide Factory Price Reebok Classic Gl 6000 Fleur - Trainers - White/Taupe/Blue V62q3288,Adidas Porsche Unisex White Sapphire Blue Shoes Model:A554Buy Popular Reebok Classic Paris Runner - Trainers - White/Taupe/Blue W14p1606,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

VANS AUTHENTIC POP LACE FROST GREY RED LACE SKATE DISCOUNTED (484) MEN'S SHOES [X60z1606] 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, Best Buy Timberland Wharf District - Casual Lace-Ups - Black J35y8695,Adidas ZX 750 Unisex Grey Blue Yellow Black Shoes Model:A1239Comfortable Timberland Authentics - Lace-Up Boots - Black X2q5828,, 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.

Vans Sk8 - High-Top Trainers - Navy L7q6490 Ebay,Adidas ZX 700 Unisex Red Blue Purple Shoes Model:A1215Vans Authentic - Trainers - Natural/True White S81b4108 Collection,, Japan is in the midst of a quiet revolution when it comes to immigrant workers. Nike Kids Jordan 11 Grey Silver Sneakers 3125546,Adidas Performance Unisex Black White Shoes Model:A536Nike Kids Air Jordan 3 Alternate Joker Sneakers 3125595,.

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, Nike Air Jordan 1 Low Sport Fuschia/Metallic Gold Sneakers 3125689,Adidas ZX 700 Unisex White Red Black Shoes Model:A1220Nike Air Jordan 1 Logo Black/Metallic Gold Sneakers 3125741,.

VANS AUTHENTIC US OPEN SUNSET WHITE MEN'S SIZE: 8 [O50u1681]

Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, Nike Air Jordan 11 Retro Concord Sneakers 3125832,Adidas Porsche Unisex Black Red Shoes Model:A602Nike Air Jordan XIII 13 Retro White/Team Red-Flint Grey Sneakers 3125947,. "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. "Nike Air Jordan 18 White/Black Sneakers 3125994,Adidas Porsche Unisex Black Blue Shoes Model:A586Nike Air Jordan 4 UNC PE White Cement Black Red Sneakers 3126079,."

VANS BEDFORD MEN US 13 BROWN SNEAKERS BLEMISH 2292 [W96t1901] 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.Nike Air Jordan 4 White Black Red/Cement Grey with Plastic Tag Sneakers 3126176,Adidas Porsche Unisex Black Green Shoes Model:A596Nike Air Jordan 5 White/Black/Red Sneakers 3126251,. 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.

"Nike Air Jordan 6 Black/Varsity Red-Blue-Light Graphite Sneakers 3126318,Adidas Porsche Unisex White Blue Shoes Model:A608Nike Air Jordan 9 Doernbecher Sneakers 3126405,, like all other countries, does have racist problems, but hate crime and hate speech are relatively Nike Jordan Aero Mania Black/Black/White Sneakers 3126502,Adidas Porsche Unisex Black Shoes Model:A618Nike Air Jordan Hydro 5 Slide Sandals Black Red Sneakers 3126560,," 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.

VANS BRIGATA MEN US 7 BLACK SKATE SHOE 3473 [E65v6543]

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

Nike Air Max Mens Gray Purple Sneakers 3126986,Adidas Predator Unisex Blue White Red Shoes Model:A674Nike Air Max Mens Forest Camouflage Sneakers 3127040,, and 60% are 65 or older. Most of their children have left for the city in search of better-paying office work.

Nike Air Max 90 EM Mens Gray And Black Sneakers 3127152,Adidas Predator Unisex Black Red Shoes Model:A659Nike Air Max 91 Mens White Gray Sneakers 3127248,, 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.

VANS CLASSIC SLIPON BLACK CANVAS MENS TRAINERS [A11i1073] 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, Nike Air Max Excellerate+2 Mens Blue Black Sneakers 3127307,Adidas Predator Unisex Blue White Orange Shoes Model:A692Nike Air Trainer Max 1.3 Bresathe MP Mens Blue Green Sneakers 3127427,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

Nike Air Max Unisex White Red Gradual Change Sneakers 3127485,Adidas Predator Unisex White Shoes Model:A713Nike Air Max 90 Hyperfuse Unisex Green Gray Sneakers 3127564,. He speaks basic Japanese, which he picked up watching anime series such as "One Piece" and "Detective Conan."

Nike Air Presto Mens Anti Fur Leopard Brown Yellow 3127901,Adidas Predator Unisex Black Shoes Model:A708Nike Air Yeezy 2 South Beach Basketball Shoes 3128072,," he said. "I want to do more work." He says he wants to run a big farm in Indonesia one day, perhaps growing rice or coffee.

Nike Kobe 8 System Basketball Shoes Snake BlueBlack/White 3128190,Adidas Springblade Unisex Grey Blue Shoes Model:A821Nike LeBron X EXT Cork QS Red/Black Basketball Shoes 3128280,.

VANS ISO 1.5 + BLUE WHITE MENS TRAINERS [Q77t4272] A Vietnamese worker checks autoparts at a Shigeru plant in Gunma Prefecture. (Photo by Ken Kobyashi)

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."

Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 7 Blue/Black/White Basketball Shoes 3128390,Adidas Springblade Unisex Green Shoes Model:A810Nike Zoom KD VI Green/Khaki Basketball Shoes 3128479,.

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.

Nike Lebron 10 Easter Mint Green Basketball Shoes 3128591,Adidas Stan Smith Unisex White Black Shoes Model:A866Nike Blazer Mid Prm Mens All Army Green Skateboarding Shoes 3128691,.

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

Nike Dunk SB High dark gray light gray orange red Mens Sneakers 3128837,Adidas Stan Smith Unisex Black White Shoes Model:A856Nike Free 3.0 V2 Mens Running Shoe Dark Grey Green Blue 3128968,.

VANS MEN'S CHAPMAN MID HI-TOP SNEAKERS BLACK (LEATHER BLACK/BLACK) 6.5 UK NEW [X6f2024] Internet company Rakuten, based in Tokyo, has been actively recruiting foreign talent. (Photo by Yasunori Okamura)

Nike Free 5.0 V4 Mens Running Shoe Grey Blue 3129080,Adidas Supernova Unisex Atr Pink Shoes Model:A900Nike Roshe Run Mide Suede Mens Shoes Black Silver Yellow 3129200,. technology companies like Google and Uber in the emerging fields of autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, ride-sharing and the internet of things. In these new fields, the flow of ideas -- and people -- is vital.

"It is impossible for Japanese to create a very competitive technology-based company unless we globalize internally,Nike Lunar Glide +4 Green Black Mens Sneakers 3129527,Adidas Supernova Unisex Green Grey Shoes Model:A912Nike Zoom Terra Kiger Blue Green Mens Sneakers 3129615,, 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, Nike HyperVenom Phantom AG Soccer Cleats Orange Black 3129755,Adidas Supernova Unisex Purple Black Silver Shoes Model:A927Nike GS Mercurial Glide III FG Black 3129869,.

VANS OFF THE WALL ERA 59 WAXED CANVAS CHILI PEPPER RED MENS 10.5 SHOES SK8 [M11c6062] 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. Nike Mercurial Vapor IX CR7 Limited Edition IC Shoes Black White Blue Green Galaxy 3129989,Adidas Superstar 2 Unisex Clover Grey Blue Red White Shoes Model:A1055Nike Mercurial Vapor VII Superfly III TRX FG Light Green Black 3130102,.

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. Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII TF All White Blue Logo 3130206,Adidas Superstar 2 Unisex Camouflage Black Shoes Model:A1045Nike Mercurial Veloce CR FG Galaxy Soccer Cleats Ossidiana Argento Green 3130281,, 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," Nike Tiempo Legend IV AG Shoes Sunburst White Crimson 3130423,Adidas Superstar 2 Unisex Khaki Shoes Model:A1063Aquila Greeves Men WL94723,.

Family ties

But IT workers are an exception. Most others, even skilled workers, face significant hurdles to settling in Japan.

VANS OLD SKOOL CLASSIC DIGI HULA BLACK TRUE WHITE [Z98o1151] 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. 

Among those whose skills are in great demand is Marliezl Abud, Clae Gregory Sp Men BR84112,Adidas Superstar 2 Unisex White Red Shoes Model:A1139Dc Shoes Mens Evan Smith S Shoe Men KF36890,, Care Port Itabashi.  

Globe Mahalo Lyte Men LA96697,Adidas Superstar Unisex Pink Black Grey Shoes Model:A993Le Coq Sportif Worker+ Cvs Men WQ88925,, it entered economic partnership agreements with the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam that would allow up to 900 caregivers a year to come work in the country for up to four or five years each. 

VANS OLD SKOOL ZIP SZ 11 PREMIUM LEATHER ZIPPER CHILI PEPPER VN 018GGKP [O86w7073]

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. Puma Ignite Sock Men DN93138,Adidas Superstar Unisex Blue Yellow Green Shoes Model:A986Windsor Smith Rangger Men JV36078,.  

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, Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Ox Shield Canvas LQ36280,Adidas ZX Flux Unisex Grey Shoes Model:A1284adidas Taekwondo Mens Shoes Trainers Sneakers Sports Footwear Wht / DkShale / Blk,. 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," LACOSTE SPORT GIRON Black Smart Leather Shoes Trainers Mens Size 7.5 NEW Black,Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Force Men's Black2016 Mens Spring / Summer New Student Fashion Shoes Canvas Shoes Sports Shoes Board,."

Fashion Mens Korean Casual Sneakers Leather Sport Hip Hop Skateboard Shoes PL30,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

Mens Casual Leather Lace Up Running Sports Hiking Athletic Shoes Sneakers Z152,Nike Air Max Zero Junior BlackNew Fashion Mens Sports Shoes Casual outdoors Running Skateboard Shoes D white,
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

New woman Sports FiveFingers Shoes Light weight Toes Socks Barefoot trainers White Red bl,

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

3 months for $9

Mens Puma Smash Canvas Trainers Lace Up Casual Sport Shoes - US 7 Blue,Nike Motion Blur Mercurial Vortex Turf Junior WhiteVANS SYNDICATE AUTHENTIC 69 PRO S SZ 13 RED CHECKER WHITE VN 0SDMY52 [U100m5578],
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

NEW AUTHENTIC VANS ERA VAN DOREN CAMO SKATE SHOES MEN'S 10.5 11 11.5 10 1/2 11 [J58m3502],Top Quality Adidas Originals Los Angeles - Trainers - Branch/Shiny Gunmetal H99a6071VANS - BRAIDED SUEDE CLASSIC SLIP-ON SHOES (NEW) BLACK SLIP ONS MENS SIZES 7-13 [M79o8645],

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

VANS STUSSY OG SK8-HI LX VN-0OZEEEK [W32k8071],Fashion Adidas Originals Stan Smith - Trainers - White/Core Black P20q7751SNEAKERS VANS ,
VANS ALOMAR OFF THE WALL MIX BLACK GUM [L20e4744],Cheap Adidas Performance Cw Libria Pearl Cp - Winter Boots - Core Black I69m9370VANS AUTHENTIC COMA JA CAMOUFLAGE MENS TRAINERS [L56w3120],
  • Inexpensive 196228 Nike Air Max Ltd II Men Black Red Shoes
  • Gorgeous Converse Auckland Racer - Trainers - Mouse/White J37m7456
  • Vans Old Skool W Beige
  • Unisex Nike Laser Pulse True (NFL Saints) - Adjustable Hat DJ400528b
  • Clothing - Nike College Sideline GridIron Full-Zip Hoodie - West Virginia Mountaineers - Navy 9PQ6818 - Men's
  • Wonderful Adidas Pharrell Williams NMD White 49946734 for Men
  • Nike Free Run 3 Red Black Shoes
  • Discount Authentic Mens Nike Shox R4 Air Max LTD Shoes Black/Dark Grey
  • Nike Air Max 1 Ultra Moire Midnight Navy Photo Blue Black Mens Running Shoes 724390 008
  • Saucony Grid SD Ether (copper)
  • Latest Allrounder By Mephisto Fina Tek Walking Shoes Grey / Dark For Women Clearance
  • Nike Dunk Retro Nizke Panske Basketbalov
  • 2017 Blue Nike Womens Shoes Men's Nike Alpha Pro 2 3/4 Td Team Orange/Black/Black Shoes Canada GDU8901127
  • Pumps & Heels Women Privileged Trompe Platform Pump Black Online Sale
  • Mens/Womens Adidas Originals CONFERENCE HI Suppliers Casual Shoes Black D65940
  • Men's Nike Air Force 1 Low Casual Shoes Men Hyper Blue/White
  • Born Black Vivianay UYE238784
  • Mens Nike Air Max 2009 Shoes - Green/Black Leather
  • Adidas Tubular Runner Casual Shoes Men Orange/Black
  • Nike Magista Obra Nike Magista Obra Fg 2 Football Nike Magista Obra Fg Soccer Cleats Firm Ground Wol
  • Best Adidas Originals Zx Flux - Trainers - New Navy/Running White N66f2232