In an effort to reverse population decline in the regions, Japan’s government is offering 1 million yen ($7,500) per child to families who relocate outside of greater Tokyo.
According to Japanese media reports, the incentive - a significant increase from the previous relocation fee of 300,000 yen - will be implemented in April as part of an official push to revitalise declining towns and villages, a report in the Guardian said.
Why is This?
Although Tokyo’s population fell for the first time last year, owing in part to the coronavirus pandemic, policymakers believe more should be done to reduce the city’s population density and encourage people to start new lives in “unfashionable" parts of the country hit by ageing, shrinking populations, and the migration of younger people to Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities.
Families living in Tokyo’s 23 “core" wards and the neighbouring commuter-belt prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa will be eligible for the payment, which comes on top of up to 3 million yen already available in financial assistance, the report states.
Families must relocate outside of the greater Tokyo area to receive the benefits, though some may be eligible if they relocate to mountainous areas within the city’s boundaries, according to the Kyodo news agency, citing officials.
Around 1,300 municipalities have joined the scheme, accounting for roughly 80% of the total, hoping to capitalise on a shift in public attitudes toward quality of life that gained traction during the pandemic, when more workers discovered the benefits of working remotely.
Families hoping for a quick payday before returning to the capital will be disappointed. They must live in their new homes for at least five years, and at least one member of the household must be employed or planning to start a new business. Those who leave before the five-year period is up must return the money.
Officials hope that the generous sums on offer will encourage families with children up to the age of 18 to revitalise regions and relieve pressure on space and public services in greater Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolis with a population of approximately 35 million people.
According to the Nikkei business newspaper, relocating families receive 1m-3m per household if they meet one of three criteria: employment at a small or midsize company in the area they move to; continuing in their old jobs via remote working; or starting a business in their new home. After the higher payments are taken into account, a family with two children may be eligible for up to 5 million.
Where Will the Funds Come From?
According to Kyodo, the central government will contribute half of the funds, while local municipalities will contribute the other half.
Since its inception three years ago, the scheme has struggled to capture the public imagination, with support provided to 1,184 families in 2021 - the year teleworking became more common - compared to 71 in 2019 and 290 in 2020, according to the Nikkei.
The government hopes that by 2027, 10,000 people will have relocated from Tokyo to rural areas.
To entice new residents, Japan’s hollowed-out towns and villages have emphasised the charms of rural life, easy access to overcrowded childcare, and, in the case of Otari village in Nagano prefecture, the availability of eligible men.
The most recent attempt to revitalise the regions coincides with yet another drop in Japan’s population.
According to government data, the population of the world’s third-largest economy fell by a record 644,000 in 2020-21. It is expected to fall from 125 million today to an estimated 88 million in 2065, a 30% drop in 45 years.
While the number of people over the age of 65 continues to rise, the birth rate remains stubbornly low at 1.3 children per woman, well below the 2.1 required to maintain the current population size.
The total number of births in 2021 was 811,604, the lowest since records began in 1899. In comparison, the number of centenarians has risen to more than 90,500, up from 153 in 1963.
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