Explained | Why is Japan offering citizens money to move out of Tokyo?

Why is the country encouraging citizens to move out of the Tokyo metropolitan area? What are the likely benefits for citizens? How are rural areas suffering due to overpopulation in the capital region?

Updated - January 26, 2023 01:43 pm IST

Published - January 06, 2023 08:30 am IST

People cross a street in Tokyo (file photo)

People cross a street in Tokyo (file photo) | Photo Credit: AP/Koji Sasahara

The story so far: According to local media reports, Japan will pay up to one million yen (approximately ₹6 lakh) per child to families if they move out of the Tokyo metropolitan area. This amount was previously set at 3,00,000 yen and has been raised to reduce population concentration in the capital area. The new rule will be implemented starting April, the report added.

Why does Japan want people to move out of the metropolitan area?

In 2019, Japan released a revised version of a policy for revitalising its towns, people, and jobs. It included the current and future state of the country’s population and aspirations. According to the policy document, the total population of Japan will decrease to around 90 million in 2060 (Worldometer estimates it to be over 125 million currently).

The impact of emigration has been felt sharply in rural areas the most, where the number of local community members have decreased, leading to a shrinkage in local and small-scale economic opportunities. This sets off an adverse chain reaction, the policy document notes. Once people move out and local economies decline, it becomes difficult to maintain essential life services in these areas, and the region loses its charm and functionality.

Japan’s two-pronged solution to this problem includes achieving the goal of a vibrant local community and correcting the overconcentration in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Tokyo is also prone to earthquakes, and the overconcentration of the population and economy makes the nation vulnerable to loss. To strengthen its efforts of reducing overconcentration in Tokyo, the government plans to promote immigration and settlements in rural areas through policies like offering a lucrative sum of money. Other plans on the list include improving ties with local communities, creating a profitable economy, and promoting a work-life balance focused on peace of mind.

What is the Tokyo metropolitan area?

Tokyo, Saitama Prefecture, Chiba Prefecture, and Kanagawa Prefecture are included in the Tokyo area.

What are the benefits of moving out?

The Regional Revitalisation Migration Support project provides subsidies to people living or working in the 23 wards of Tokyo (including the disadvantaged areas within Tokyo) to move out of the Tokyo metropolitan area and start a business or work. The subsidies are jointly provided by prefectures and municipalities. People who have lived in the 23 wards of Tokyo or in the Tokyo metropolitan area (excluding disadvantaged areas) for a total of five years or more in the last 10 years can, before they move, apply for the subsidy. It is also necessary for the applicants to have lived or commuted in the 23 wards of Tokyo, at least for the past one year. For people who lived in the metropolitan area (excluding disadvantaged areas) and commuted to schools and universities in the 23 wards, the period of commuting to schools is also counted under this project.

The application for the subsidy must be made between the three months and one year of moving into the municipality. It is also important for applicants to show that they intend to live in the area for at least five years.

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