More people work in rural areas in govt. program

Japan's internal affairs ministry says a record number of people used a government program to move out of urban areas and work to revitalize rural communities in fiscal 2020.

The ministry calls the participants in the program "Local Vitalization Cooperators." Commissioned by local governments, the participants work in rural areas for one to three years while receiving some financial support.

The ministry hopes that the participants will eventually settle down in the areas where they work.

The ministry says 1,065 municipalities used the program to invite those people in fiscal 2020, which ends in March. The figure was down by six from the level the previous fiscal year, partly due to the spread of the coronavirus.

But the number of participants in the program increased by 115 to 5,464 -- the highest since the program started 12 years ago.

By prefecture, Hokkaido had 699 Local Vitalization Cooperators, followed by Nagano with 416 and Kochi with 220.

The ministry also surveyed about 6,500 people who participated in the program in the past and found that more than 60 percent of them settled down in areas where they worked through the program.

The ministry plans to start a trial program in April for people who want to work in rural areas for two weeks to three months.

Ministry officials say they want to offer more support for people who are thinking of moving to rural areas amid the coronavirus pandemic.