SHIFT IN CULTURAL PREFERENCES
A shift in cultural preferences is taking root within the Japanese population. The Furusato Kaiki Shien Center, a non-profit organisation in Tokyo dedicated to supporting individuals interested in relocating to rural areas, witnessed a surge in engagement in the past few years.
In 2021, the centre received 49,514 consultations through emails, phone calls, seminars and one-on-one sessions. This figure notably increased by 29 per cent in 2022, with individuals in their 20s to 40s constituting 70 per cent of the consultations.
This growing interest reflects a changing mindset – a growing desire to achieve a better work-life balance, contribute to their local communities and embrace a more organic lifestyle. This shift in public opinion holds promise for the Japanese government’s relocation policies and may provide the extra push for families to take the first step out of Tokyo.
For the relocation policy to unlock its full potential, a more nuanced approach is required. Since economic barriers act as the biggest obstacle for both relocation and family expansion, the Japanese government should provide a monthly allowance of ¥50,000 per child on top of the upfront ¥1 million payout.
The ¥50,000 comes from the average monthly costs of raising a child – ¥45,306 per month. Not only would this monthly support cover the monthly expenses associated with childcare, but would also serve as a catalyst for parents to invest more in their children’s human capital.
Embedding tax breaks, providing extensive job placement support and promoting remote work opportunities will be crucial. By alleviating financial strains and reshaping the corporate structure of Tokyo, this would create an environment conducive to rural development. As interest in relocation out of the capital remains high, it is imperative to recalibrate the policy to align with the evolving needs of the Japanese population.
Uno Kakegawa is Research Fellow in the Centre for Japanese Research at the University of British Columbia. This commentary first appeared on East Asia Forum.
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