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A doll that changed lives

Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies was only five years old when she needed to flee home because of the Vietnam War. She and her family spent eight months in a refugee camp in Malaysia. Then an Alberta church sponsored their immigration to Canada.

Nhung arrived in Canada on a boat with 300 other refugees. She remembers it was nauseating and suffocating. 

At the airport gate, a little Canadian girl called Adrienne gave a doll to Nhung. 

"This little girl presented a little gift... This doll lit up my heart and in that moment, it meant everything to me," says Nhung. After that, the girls stayed friends. This doll has also inspired Nhung to become a doctor and help others, as this girl has helped her.

Who will care for Japan's elderly?

Today, more than a quarter of Japan's population is aged over 65. This is set to increase to 40% by 2055. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has warned that Japan will need to add one million nurses and care workers by 2025 to cope with this demographic change.

Encouraging immigration may seem like a simple solution—but it's not a popular one. Japan is still one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world, with foreigners making up less than 2% of the population. Opening up Japan to large-scale immigration is a very sensitive subject.

Japan's demographic changes

Japan is internationalisingand this process is rapidly accelerating. The driving force is demographic change. Japan’s population is ageing rapidly and shrinking. Add in other factors, including never-before-seen levels of foreign tourism, plus massive preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and the result is a nation that desperately needs more workers to fill jobs. 

Japan has been aware of this approaching demographic crisis for decades, but because successive governments have been reluctant to take major steps, the problem has become more urgent. 

New policy on foreign workers

Japan's Cabinet has approved a draft bill that would allow the entry of more foreign blue-collar workers as the country's rapidly aging population faces labor shortages.

The bill is a major revision of Japan's policy on foreign labor. The country has long resisted accepting foreign workers, except for doctors, teachers and others in highly skilled fields. The proposed legislation would create two new visa categories for foreigners employed in more than a dozen sectors facing labor shortages, such as nursing, farming, construction and services.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied that the new policy means Japan is opening its doors to immigrants, to reassure his nationalist supporters. Opponents are concerned about crime and jobs taken away from Japanese, while proponents say foreign workers are indispensable in sectors facing labor shortages.