JFKA459KVBM From St. Xavier - Cheap Black Crossbody Bag With Contrast Gold Pattern 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, New Air Jordan 1 fusion-Full White A4586-11,Adidas Marathon 10 M grey-white-black running shoes,New Nike Air Jordan 6 Rings White Red/Yellow Blue Wade 3 jr6010,, 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. Nike Air Force 1 Classic Mid Mens shoes in Black red,Adidas Porsche Design BOUNCE S2 Black-Red Sport shoes,Nike Air Force 1 Low Mens Shoes in Auburn/Plaid/White,. Like other industries in a rapidly aging Japan, the construction business is desperate for labor. Nike Air Force 1 Low White Golden,Adidas Porsche Design Bounce S4 Black-silver Sport shoes,Nike Air Force 1 Premium Low Mens Shoes in Black/Earth yellow,. As baby boomers retire, the labor shortage -- in construction and in the wider economy -- is bound to become more acute.

Cheep Philipp Plein Shoes Men VGF3681 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, Nike Air Force 1 Supreme Low Mens in Black/White/Orange,Adidas Reebok ZigTech Black Red shoes,NIKE Air Jordan 1 I Retro High DMP Black Green,, 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, Nike Air Jordan Fusion 4 (Ajf 4) White/Varsity Red-Cement Grey-Black 364342-162,Adidas Superstar Adicolor II W white-gold shoes,Nike Air Jordan T4G (Silver/Pine Green/Green Bean) 313527 031,.

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Immigration remains a politically charged issue in Japan, NIKE AJF 5 White Red Blue Ribbon New Blue,Adidas TMAC Shell Toe white/red shoes,Nike Shox R4 Velcro Men Shoes White,. "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. "Puma Ferrari Speed Cat Shoes White,Adidas TMAC Shell Toe white/black/gold shoes,Men's Air Jordan 1 KO High OG Sail/Varsity Red,."

Girls Air Jordan 5 Retro GS Pink Citrus Black/Bright Citrus-Fusion Pink 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.Men's Air Jordan 13 Retro White/Team Red/Black,adidas Y-3 IKUNO Black/Green shoes,Men's Air Jordan 7 Retro White/University Blue/Flint Grey/French blue,. 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, MEN'S LeBron XIV coast,Air Jordan 13 (XIII) Retro-White/Neutral Grey-University Blue 310004-103,Men's Nike Air Force 1 07 LV8 White/White,, where the temperature can reach 40 C in summer.

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Nike Flyknit Air Max Mens shoes (11) 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."

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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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On Nike KD 7 (VII) Black Yeezy Black/Hyper Pink Online 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,Men's Nike Free 5.0 Solstice Black/Pure Platinum/Bright Citrus,Air Jordan 9 + Air Jordan 10 Blue Black,Men's Nike Free RN Flyknit Hot Punch/Black/Gamma Blue/White,, 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. Men's Nike Hypervenom Phantom III Elite Dynamic Fit Anti-Clog SG-PRO Dark Grey/White/Total Orange,Air Jordan Game Changer (white obsidian blue) 309309 002,Men's NIKE HYPERVENOMX FINALE II TF Grey/Black Navy/Red,.

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. Men's Nike Kobe A.D. NXT University Red/Bright Crimson,Air Jordan Melo 1.5 2005 All-Star Edition (White Red) 309265 104,Men's Nike Lunar Force 1 G Cargo Khaki/Max Orange/Light Bone/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," Men's NIKE LUNAREPIC LOW FLYKNIT Black/White,Air Jordan Ol School Ii Black Black Varsity Royal White 331819 071,Men's Nike Magista Obra II Elite Dynamic Fit AG-PRO Dark Grey/Total Orange/White/Black,.

Family ties

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

New Balance NB 360 Black White Red Mens Sneakers 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, Men's NIKE MAGISTA ORDEN II FG Orange,Air Jordan True Flight Black Navy Blue White,Men's Nike Mercurial Superfly FG CR7 Gold/Black,, 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. Men's NIKE PREMIER Soccer Cleats Black,Air Max 2011 Shoes Black Red,Men's NIKE ROSHE ONE Varsity Red,.  

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, Men's NIKE SB STEFAN JANOSKI MAX PREMIUM White,Air Max 90 Shoes Black Grey Grey,Men's NIKE TIEMPO GENIO LEATHER TF Wolf Grey/Black/Green Strike,. 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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