Million yen per child to leave Tokyo – Japan’s offer to families | Japan


Japan’s government is offering ¥1m ($7,500) per child to families who move out of greater Tokyo, in an attempt to reverse population decline in the regions.

The incentive – a dramatic rise from the previous relocation fee of ¥300,000 – will be introduced in April, according to Japanese media reports, as part of an official push to breathe life into declining towns and villages.

Although Tokyo’s population fell for the first time last year– a trend partly attributed to the coronavirus pandemic – policymakers believe more should be done to lower the city’s population density and encourage people to start new lives in “unfashionable” parts of the country that have been hit by ageing, shrinking populations and the migration of younger people to Tokyo, Osaka and other big cities.

The payment – which comes on top of up to ¥3m already available in financial support – will be offered to families living in the 23 “core” wards of Tokyo and the neighbouring commuter-belt prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.

To receive the benefits, families must move outside the greater Tokyo area, although some could receive the cash if they relocate to mountainous areas that lie within the city’s boundaries, the Kyodo news agency said, quoting officials.

About 1,300 municipalities – roughly 80% of the total – have joined the scheme, hoping to capitalise in a shift in public attitudes towards quality of life that gained momentum during the pandemic, when more workers discovered the benefits of working remotely.

Families hoping to secure an easy payday before returning to the capital will be disappointed, however. They must live in their new homes for at least five years and one member of the household must be in work or plan to open a new business. Those who move out before five years have passed will have to return the cash.

Officials hope the generous sums on offer will encourage families with children aged up to 18 to revitalise regions and ease pressure on space and public services in greater Tokyo, the world’s biggest metropolis with a population of about 35 million.

In principle, relocating families receive ¥1m-3m per household provided 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, according to the Nikkei business newspaper. After the higher payments are factored in, a family with two children could be eligible for up to ¥5m.

Half of the cash will come from the central government, and the other half from local municipalities, Kyodo said.

The scheme has struggled to capture the public imagination since it was launched three years go, with support provided to 1,184 families in 2021 – the year teleworking became more common – compared with 71 in 2019 and 290 in 2020, the Nikkei said.

The government is hoping 10,000 people will have moved from Tokyo to rural areas by 2027, it added.

To attract new residents, Japan’s hollowed-out towns and villages have highlighted the charms of rural life, easy access to undersubscribed childcare and, in the case of Otari village in Nagano prefecture, the availability of eligible men.

The latest attempt to reinvigorate the regions comes amid yet another drop in Japan’s population.

The population of the world’s third-biggest economy suffered a record fall of 644,000 in 2020-21, according to government data. It is expected to plummet from its current 125 million to an estimated 88 million in 2065 – a 30% decline in 45 years.

While the number of over-65s continues to grow, the birthrate remains stubbornly low at 1.3 children– well below the 2.1 needed to sustain the current population size.

In 2021, the number of births totalled 811,604, the lowest since records were first kept in 1899. By contrast, the number of centenarians stands at more than 90,500 – compared with only 153 in 1963.