Workers born outside Japan are playing an increasingly important role in the world’s third-largest economy. Just don’t call it immigration.

The country is often said to pride itself on homogeneity and an aversion to outsiders. But as Japan’s population declines and ages, employers are becoming aware of their constraints. The number of employees from overseas has more than doubled since 2012 to about 1.5 million, says Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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