Commentary: Tokyo residents require more motivation to relocate

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VANCOUVER: In April 2023, the Japanese government introduced a new policy offering ¥1 million (US$6,770) per child to families who move out of greater Tokyo and relocate to rural areas of Japan, as part of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Garden City Nation Project. The initiative is a response to Japan’s challenges with urbanisation in city centres and declining population and fertility rates as the country attempts to reverse its demographic decline.

This new policy comes on top of existing relocation support incentives, which provides a subsidy of ¥1 million for individuals working in local areas and an additional ¥2 million for starting a new business, totalling to a ¥3 million handout per participant.

Officials hope that the cash payout will encourage 10,000 people to move outside of greater Tokyo by 2027 and relieve demographic pressures on the metropolis of 37 million. But six months into the initiative, population trends show no significant developments.

Since April 2023, a decreasing number of people are moving out of greater Tokyo. In June 2023, 70,054 people left greater Tokyo, compared to 65,568 people during the same time in 2022. Out of the 47 prefectures, 45 experienced a decline in incoming residents in June 2023.

While the Garden City Nation Project may have alleviated the decline in certain prefectures, it raises a crucial question - why implement an ineffective policy in the first place?

STRUGGLES WITH EMPLOYMENT

The ineffectiveness of the policy may stem from struggles finding employment. To receive the monetary benefits, at least one person in the household must start a new business in the new town, get a job at a small- or medium-sized company or continue their previous job remotely. This poses challenges for many families, given that the employment structure of Japan is based upon in-person labour and concentrates career opportunities in Tokyo.

Subsidising people to move away from the capital is counterintuitive to the overarching goals ...

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