National

Japan wants more foreign nationals to join regional revitalization programs amid graying population

JIJI

The internal affairs ministry will encourage foreign nationals living in Japan to join regional revitalization programs outside greater Tokyo and other big metropolises, sources said.

In fiscal 2019, the ministry will expand the scope of its financial assistance to municipalities to make it easier for non-Japanese, including those who have worked as assistant language teachers (ALTs), to participate in the programs, according to the sources.

Under the project, launched in fiscal 2009, young people are encouraged to move out of the greater Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya areas and live in the countryside where they are expected to engage in regional revitalization activities such as farming, the development of local specialty goods or working in the forestry and fishery industries, for one to three years.

Host municipalities receive up to ¥4 million per worker in special tax grants.

The ministry hopes to facilitate the participation in such regional revitalization efforts by foreign nationals who have worked as ALTs, international relations coordinators at municipalities and other staff under the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, or JET.

At present, the special tax grants are provided only when participants move out of the three big-city areas to be enrolled in revitalization programs in other places.

The ministry plans to ease the rule to newly cover young people who move from one location to another outside the three metropolitan areas, the sources said.

The ministry expects that the programs will interest many former JET participants who are already used to life in Japan. They must join a regional program within a year after they leave the JET program.

According to the ministry, participants in regional revitalization efforts across Japan numbered 5,359 in fiscal 2018, a record high. The number of municipalities accepting such participants also hit a record high of 1,061. The ministry aims to raise the number of participants to 8,000 by fiscal 2024.