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Recent net outflows from Tokyo may signal pandemic trend

Tokyo saw more people moving out than moving in in May last year, the first time a net outflow had been recorded since comparable data was available in July 2013, according to an Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry report.

After the capital recorded a net inflow in June, the number of people leaving Tokyo was greater than the number moving in for every month from July through December.

The trend is apparently due to the rise in telecommuting allowing people to live farther from their workplace and other such factors amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Over the full year, the number of people moving to Tokyo was in positive territory, with a gain of 31,125 residents, according to the 2020 Report on Internal Migration in Japan compiled from Basic Resident Registration. This figure was 51,857 people fewer than in 2019, however, and the lowest since 2014, when full-year data included foreign residents, who were first covered by the Basic Resident Registration system in July 2013.

Besides Tokyo, the only prefectures with a net inflow in 2020 were Chiba, Fukuoka, Kanagawa, Okinawa, Osaka, Saitama and Shiga.

The outflow from Tokyo is believed to be related to changes in the way people work following the declaration of a state of emergency in April. A full-year comparison of Tokyo with Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama — the three neighboring prefectures that along with the capital make up the Tokyo metropolitan area — showed more people moving from Tokyo to each of these prefectures than the reverse.

“The increase in the number of people leaving Tokyo is centered on areas with good access to the capital,” a senior ministry official said.

The net inflow to the Tokyo metropolitan area was 99,243 people, 49,540 fewer than in 2019.

In the Nagoya metropolitan area, which covers Aichi, Gifu and Mie prefectures, there was a net outflow of 17,387 people.

A net outflow was also recorded in the Osaka metropolitan area, covering Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto and Nara prefectures, at 118 residents, 3,979 fewer than in 2019.

■ Unclear whether trend continues

Ending the excessive concentration of people moving to Tokyo is a task that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet has taken over from his predecessor, Shinzo Abe.

In 2014, the Abe Cabinet set a goal of striking a balance between the Tokyo metropolitan area and regional areas by 2020 in terms of population flows in order to achieve its key policy of regional revitalization. To that end, concrete measures were implemented.

In fiscal 2015, a tax incentive was introduced to encourage companies to relocate their headquarters to regional areas to increase the number of workplaces in such areas. In fiscal 2018, a law for promotion of regional universities, which prohibits universities in Tokyo’s 23 wards from increasing their student quotas for 10 years in principle, was enacted.

Such measures, however, have had limited effects.

With regard to the relocation of companies, the number of employees based in regional areas climbed by only about 15,000 as of 2018 despite the government’s target of increasing it by 40,000 during the 2014-20 period.

As for the enacted law’s effectiveness, there have been persistent doubts, with some people saying that the law merely maintains the status quo and does not rectify the concentration of students in Tokyo.

Indeed, the excessive concentration of people in the Tokyo metropolitan area has remained, forcing the Abe Cabinet in December 2019 to push back the target time to the end of fiscal 2024.

In the latest report on internal migration, the inflow to the capital was less excessive due to a drop in the number of young people moving to the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is unclear, however, whether this trend will continue.

If the spread of the novel coronavirus is brought under control, the number of companies allowing telecommuting could decrease and the employment situation in central Tokyo might improve, which may lead to a renewed concentration of young people in the metropolitan area.

“It is necessary to create a comfortable living environment in regional areas by improving aspects such as employment, education and medical care,” a senior government official said. “We want to continue to make steady efforts.”

Published : February 01, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN