National

Government to use donation system to help young people settle in rural Japan

JIJI

The internal affairs ministry plans to collect donations for people willing to move from cities to rural areas through the existing furusato nozei system, which provides tax breaks for donations to hometowns and other municipalities.

The planned donation scheme is designed to support mainly young people who are temporarily working in rural areas under the local revitalization helper program and hope to create businesses and homes there, ministry officials said.

Their business plans will be introduced in a new section of the website of the Japan Organization for Internal Migration to seek donations to their host municipalities under the furusato nozei system.

The website section was brought into service Monday. A related event will be held in Tokyo, with representatives of some municipalities slated to present some business plans of local revitalization helpers.

“Receiving donations is expected to increase revitalization helpers’ confidence and sense of responsibility,” a ministry official in charge of the project said.

Under the local revitalization helper program, established in 2009, local governments facing depopulation commission such tasks as farming assistance and sales of local specialty products to people from outside.

In fiscal 2015, 2,625 people worked in 673 municipalities throughout the country under the program. Of them, about 80 percent were in their 20s or 30s, with women accounting for 40 percent. The ministry aims to boost the number of such workers to 3,000 this fiscal year.

Most of the local revitalization helpers complete their term in one to three years, but about 60 percent continue living in the same areas. Some have become farmers or found other jobs, while others have launched nonprofit organizations and opened restaurants.

But as most of them are young, they typically face financing difficulties when they plan to start business. Currently, the ministry offers up to ¥1 million per project through subsidies to their host municipalities.