TOKYO >> The growth in the number of Japanese citizens living in Tokyo has slowed as fewer people moved to the capital following the COVID-19 outbreak.
As of January 1, Tokyo’s population of Japanese nationals had increased by 39,493, according to a survey, and the population was up 0.3% year over year. But on January 1, 2020, the number of Japanese residents grew by 68,547, an increase of 0.52% over the same period.
And although the number of people moving to Tokyo decreased, the number of immigrants from the prefecture rose by around 13,100.
The government had already started tackling the overconcentration of people in Tokyo by funding teleworking and other incentives. However, some experts believe the stunted growth is only temporary.
A senior government official said the pandemic likely motivated people to leave the city. When the virus spread last year, the risk of infection was particularly high in Tokyo, where the population is densely packed.
The first state of emergency declared in April 2020 sparked an increase in teleworking, which allowed people to move outside of the city.
Among the 47 prefectures in Japan – Tokyo is the largest with around 13.3 million Japanese citizens – 42 prefectures recorded a population decline last year; however, the rate of decline has shrunk.
In Chiba and Saitama Prefectures, the population grew instead of, while the population in Okinawa and Kanagawa Prefectures increased.
To counter the overconcentrated population in Tokyo, the government introduced tax incentives for businesses moving to regional areas and grants for people moving there. However, the results were not significant.
However, the government continues to encourage people to leave the city. It has provided a “regional development teleworking grant” to help local governments set up field offices.
The Chirihama coworking base opened in September in Hakui, Ishikawa Prefecture, across from the Sea of Japan. The facility is equipped with Wi-Fi, a multifunction printer and private cubicles for online meetings – as well as a picturesque view of the sea.
It is unclear whether more people will migrate to regional areas. While Tokyo population growth has slowed, the number of Tokyo residents has not yet declined.
“We have found that even a virus outbreak cannot simply change the trend,” said a senior cabinet secretary official.
One problem that goes hand in hand is the limited growth in teleworking.
In a July survey conducted by the Japan Productivity Center, 49.7% of respondents said that their work efficiency was “decreased” or “decreased slightly” when working from home.
“Teleworking will calm down once the coronavirus is resolved,” said Akira Kakioka, a senior researcher at the center. “I don’t think this will spread any further in the future.”