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Japanese city to pay couples to live near old people

To combat an ageing population in Japan, the city of Chiba in Greater Tokyo is subsidising newlyweds who move into specially chosen buildings that house predominantly older residents.

Ever looked at a care home and wanted to live next door? Consider yourself particularly accustomed to the company of elderly people?

Starting next month, Chiba in Greater Tokyo will be subsidising up to $2,319 to new couples who move into specially selected complexes that house mostly elderly people. Those under the age of 39 can apply, and must be recognised as lifetime partners under the city’s partnership system.

This move is designed to combat Japan’s ageing population, which is currently the oldest in the world. In fact, it has had a declining birth rate since the 1970s and is wrestling with a shrinking population.

Long-term, experts warn that this could lead to a reduced workforce, diminishing Japan’s economy and causing significant labour shortages.

You may be thinking – how exactly will living next to older people help with the population crisis?

Speaking to VICE World News, assistant director of Chiba’s building management division Takeshi Tanikawa said that the strategy was intended to ‘help fill in employment gaps we’re seeing in [older populated] areas’.

Many young people in Japan gravitate toward Tokyo for better job opportunities, as is the case in lots of countries, leaving smaller cities and towns without enough young people to fill employment vacancies.

As such, these areas must come up with novel ways to bring younger citizens in as permanent residents. VICE points out that another village called Kosuge in Yamanashi prefecture created smaller, cheaper housing to bring in young residents.

Other areas like Fukushima prefecture’s Minamisoma opened new buildings in 2019 that doubled up as office and accommodation spaces. The intention was to provide the perfect space to start small businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.

As for these complexes in Chiba, they’ve a few benefits aside from the cash sum you receive for moving in. They’re located near schools, nurseries, and an abundance of stores, and Tanikawa was keen to stress that oceans, rivers, and parks ‘surrounded’ the local area.

36% of residence in housing complexes are over the age of 65, ten percentage points higher than the wider city. It’s hoped that the new scheme will change those numbers.

Time will tell if it’ll make a big difference but, either way, Japan will need to keep innovating to solve its population problem.


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