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Japan pays people to leave Tokyo

We have spoken over the years — here, here, and here — about the centralizing and decentralizing forces that play out within our cities. Agglomeration economies, for example, are a centralizing force. There are real economic benefits to people and firms clustering together in cities.

However, there are also many decentralizing forces. Traffic congestion is one. And of course, the pandemic also proved to be a powerful one for many cities.

But the fact that we even have cities in the first place should tell you that the centralizing forces do tend to win out over the decentralizing ones. And a perfect example of this is Tokyo. Usually considered to be the largest metropolitan area in the world, Tokyo has about the population of Canada in one city region.

And here, the centralizing forces are so great — even for families — that the government actually pays people to relocate to places outside of Tokyo’s 23 wards (and its immediately surrounding areas). Previously the maximum figure was ¥300,000 per child (~CA$3,056), but this has now been increased to ¥1 million per child (~CA$10,188).

A key driver of this is surely Japan’s demographic problem (namely a shrinking and aging population base). But it doesn’t change the fact that lots of people appear drawn to the world’s largest city.

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