Ministry to Support Active Recruitment of Foreign Nationals as Local Vitalization Cooperators from Fiscal 2024; Aiming to Increase Foreign Visitors to Underpopulated Areas

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Recruiting foreign applicants as Local Vitalization Cooperators

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry plans to start actively supporting the recruitment of foreign nationals from fiscal 2024 as Local Vitalization Cooperators who will move from urban areas to underpopulated areas to engage in activities such as tourism promotion and agriculture, it has been learned.

Planned measures include a special local tax allocation to support local municipalities and foreigners who are interested in the cooperator’s program to coordinate with each other, aiming to increase visitors from other regions and countries to Japan’s local municipalities by promoting tourism with the cooperators’ viewpoints as foreign residents.

Local Vitalization Cooperators engage in promoting the charm of underpopulated areas and assist in the development of local brands during their employment, which is generally between one to three years. The central government allocates up to ¥4.8 million per cooperator for each municipality for the cooperator’s activities and other expenses, aiming at encouraging the cooperators to settle down and become permanent residents. The number of the cooperators in fiscal 2022 was 6,447.

As the number of foreign cooperators is increasing in local municipalities, the ministry has decided to support local governments. Though there is no official data on the number of foreign cooperators, about 150 foreign cooperators were active nationwide as of 2022, with this number increasing every year. Foreigners living in urban areas who have obtained a work visa are eligible to become cooperators.

The ministry has already provided up to ¥3 million per municipality as financial support for recruiting Japanese cooperators. From fiscal 2024, it will also provide up to ¥2 million through special local tax allocation to prefectural governments for supporting the employment of foreign applicants to local municipalities.

 It is anticipated that prefectural governments will hold recruiting events between municipalities and foreign nationals interested in the cooperator’s program and conduct promotional activities, using the special local tax. When foreign cooperators start their activities, up to an additional ¥1 million will be allocated to prefectural governments for training them and other support costs.

Foreign cooperators are mainly expected to plan tour programs, publish information about their municipalities on social media, and guide visitors by serving as an interpreter.

The ministry hopes that such efforts will further expand tourism from overseas to Japan, which is on the recovery track after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An event by Local Vitalization Cooperators held in Sendai in October 2022