The Japanese government is offering 1 million yen ($7,500) per child to families moving out of the greater Tokyo area to help reverse the regions’ population decline.
The stimulus – a dramatic increase from the previous relocation fee of 300,000 yen – will be introduced in April as part of an official push to breathe life into declining towns and villages, according to Japanese media reports.
Although Tokyo’s population has declined for the first time over the past year – a trend partly attributed to the coronavirus pandemic – policymakers believe more should be done to reduce the city’s population density and people encourage people to start a new life in the “unfashionable” parts of the country affected by aging, shrinking populations and the exodus of younger people to Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities.
The payment — which comes on top of up to 3 million yen in financial assistance already available — will be offered to families living in Tokyo’s 23 “core wards” and neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures in the catchment area.
To receive the benefits, families will have to move out of the greater Tokyo area, although some could get the money if they move to mountainous areas within the city limits, the Kyodo news agency said, citing officials.
About 1,300 communities — about 80% of the total — have joined the program in hopes of capitalizing on a shift in public attitudes toward quality of life that has gained momentum during the pandemic, as more workers discovered the benefits of remote work.
However, families hoping for an easy payday before returning to the capital will be disappointed. They must have lived in their new home for at least five years and one member of the household must be employed or planning to start a new business. Anyone who moves out before the end of five years must return the money.
Officials hope the generous sums on offer will encourage families with children up to the age of 18 to revitalize regions and ease pressure on space and public services in Greater Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolitan area with about 35 million inhabitants.
Generally, relocating families receive ¥1-3 million per household if they meet one of three criteria: employment with a small or medium-sized business in the area they are relocating to; continuing their old jobs through remote work; or start a business in their new home, according to business daily Nikkei. After accounting for the higher payments, a family with two children could be entitled to as much as 5 million yen.
Half of the money will come from the central government and half from local communities, Kyodo said.
The program has struggled to attract public attention since its inception three years ago. In 2021 – the year teleworking became more common – 1,184 families were supported, compared with 71 in 2019 and 290 in 2020, the Nikkei said.
The government hopes that 10,000 people will have moved to rural areas from Tokyo by 2027, it added.
To attract new residents, Japan’s hollowed-out towns and villages have highlighted the charm of rural life, easy access to underpaid childcare and, in the case of Otari village in Nagano Prefecture, the availability of suitable men.
The latest attempt to revitalize the regions comes amid a further decline in Japan’s population.
The population of the world’s third largest economy suffered a record drop of 644,000 in 2020-21, according to government data. It is expected to fall from the current 125 million to an estimated 88 million in 2065 – a 30% drop in 45 years.
While the number of people over 65 continues to rise, the birth rate remains stubbornly low at 1.3 children – well below the 2.1 required to sustain current population size.
In 2021, the number of births was 811,604, the lowest since it was first recorded in 1899. The number of centenarians, on the other hand, is over 90,500 – compared to just 153 in 1963.