A record 7,200 people in Japan served as members of a government-subsidized squad who moved from urban to nonurban areas to work on promoting regional revitalization in fiscal 2023, up by 753 from the previous year, the internal affairs ministry said Friday.

The number of municipalities that accepted members of the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad also hit a record high of 1,164, up by 48, apparently reflecting the growing interest in migration to rural areas.

The government aims to increase the number of such cooperators to 10,000 by fiscal 2026. To achieve this goal, the ministry plans to put energy into publicizing the squad's activities and support municipalities' efforts to accept squad members.

Of the country's 47 prefectures, Hokkaido accepted the largest number of community-reactivating squad members in fiscal 2023, at 1,084, followed by Nagano at 461 and Fukushima at 313. Some 60% of the squad members were men and about 40% were women. Two out of three were in their 20s or 30s, 20% were in their 40s and less than 10% were in their 50s.

Of the 11,123 people who finished their terms as members of the squad by the end of March 2023, 7,214, or around 65%, continue to live in the municipalities that accepted them or in nearby areas, according to the ministry.

"The project has generated effects in both revitalizing communities and promoting migration," internal affairs minister Takeaki Matsumoto told a news conference Friday, adding that his ministry will make further efforts to promote the initiative.

The ministry also said that a record 779 company employees were dispatched to local municipalities under its regional revitalization entrepreneur system in fiscal 2023, which ended last month. The number of municipalities that accepted such workers came to 449, also a record high.