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Environment for enabling settlement of youth key to regional revitalization

The Yomiuri ShimbunHow to change the trend toward accelerating overconcentration of population in Tokyo? An urgent task in this regard is upgrading the environment in which young people in regional areas can learn and work locally.

The comprehensive strategy for regional revitalization put forward by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will enter the third year of a five-year implementation plan in fiscal 2017, starting in April. It is about time for concrete results to be seen.

Concerning the numerical target of creating 300,000 jobs for young people in regional areas, about 100,000 jobs have been secured in the past two years. The number of regular workers has expanded and women’s employment rate has increased.

On the other hand, the goal of realizing a new population flow from the Tokyo metropolitan area to regional areas has become rather distant.

The initial plan called for increasing the population outflow from the Tokyo metropolitan area to regional areas by 40,000 and decreasing the population inflow from regional areas to the Tokyo metropolitan area by 60,000, thereby eliminating the inflow excess of 100,000.

As things turned out, however, the population inflow into the Tokyo metropolitan area expanded, leading to an inflow excess of 120,000 in 2015. The inflow was conspicuous among those in the 15-19 age bracket and 20-24 age bracket. Advancing to high schools and universities and employment are thought to be major factors behind this phenomenon.

This underscores anew that a correction of the concentration in Tokyo is a difficult task to be achieved. The effects of conventional measures must be strictly scrutinized again.

The comprehensive strategy revised by the government in December put an emphasis on the promotion of regional universities and support for the employment of students locally. Emphasizing the fostering of young people who will bear responsibility for regional development is a reasonable path to pursue.

Enhance local charms

There are some successful examples.

Kochi University established in fiscal 2015 the Faculty of Regional Collaboration to conduct practical research and study in collaboration with municipalities and residents in Kochi Prefecture. Of the new enrollment in fiscal 2016, those hailing from the prefecture accounted for 42 percent, far surpassing the prefecture’s 25 percent share in the overall number of students.

An increasing number of prefectures have set up a system under which the amount of scholarships to be repaid will be reduced or repayment will be waived on the condition that recipients take up local jobs. This, combined with the intern system at regional companies, will provide opportunities for students in urban areas to turn their eyes toward regional areas.

It is understandable that the government strives to bolster regional assistance through such measures as establishing regional versions of the work style reform panel and providing tax grants to local governments.

To lure more young people into regional areas, municipalities must make steady efforts to enhance their regional charms through brainstorming with local universities and businesses.

The Association of Prefectural Governors asks for restraint on the construction of new universities and faculties in the 23 wards of Tokyo. The government plans to work out concrete steps on the matter by this summer.

New university construction in central Tokyo had long been regulated by a law that restricted factories and others. Since the law was abolished in 2002 out of concern about such possibilities as a hollowing out of the metropolis, an increasing number of private universities, which had moved to the suburbs, have been making a U-turn to central Tokyo.

With the continued decline in the population of people aged 18, the survival of universities is an increasingly real concern. Amid this situation, it is required to study from a broad perspective how to strike a balance of higher education between big cities and regional areas and to consider what regulations will be appropriate.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 7, 2017)Speech



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