Trade tension between the United States and China is casting a shadow over the livelihoods of foreign nationals living in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, with dwindling employment opportunities and linguistic barriers forcing them to pack up and leave.

In 2018, the prefecture’s foreign population experienced the highest growth rate in Japan, with around half of them living in Izumo. But in the six months since last May, when the number stood at 4,950, the city’s foreign population fell by more than 400.

The population drop was triggered by the prolonged U.S.-China trade friction and the ensuing global economic downturn, which caused a factory operated by an affiliate of a major electronic parts manufacturer to slow production.

The resulting job cuts and decreases in the number of working days severely affected Brazilians of Japanese descent, forcing around 530 of them to leave the city.

Third-generation Japanese Brazilian Fabio Higashi, 36, said his life plans have changed considerably since his dispatch worker contract was terminated at the end of November. He had been working at the same factory for five years.

Higashi’s two children, whom he brought to Japan, now have Japanese friends who come over to play at their home. He is currently looking for another job.

“There were few opportunities to speak Japanese at the factory,” he said. “From now on, I want to study the language while working in Japanese society.”

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