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Hope and fear swirl as Japan prepares to welcome foreign laborers

Expected influx of 500,000 workers could save small towns or disrupt harmony

This grocery store north of Tokyo went in a cosmopolitan direction when it realized more foreigners were shopping there.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- With Japan now planning to open its doors to more foreign workers, academics and other observers are beginning to wonder exactly what kind of turn the country is in for -- one that lifts the economy or one that delivers discord.

The cabinet on Friday adopted the basic economic and fiscal policy outline for a new residence permit for overseas workers in five industries suffering severe labor shortages -- including construction, agriculture and elderly care. The program, to begin next fiscal year, is expected to bring in more than 500,000 laborers by around 2025.

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