《Hokkaido : the migrants’ choice》– data regarding people’s movements during the coronavirus pandemic

A shift in the flow of people from rural to urban areas, which has long continued in Japan, is now being seen. The influx of the population to Tokyo is decreasing and, for seven consecutive months since the initial spread of the coronavirus in April, the number of those relocating to Hokkaido has exceeded that of those going out. The spread of the Covid-19 virus provided a chance to review the way in which we do our jobs, resulting in an increase in work that can be done ‘remotely’ – living and working in rural regions. From the choices of those who have relocated to Hokkaido, we look into the potential of a sustained population shift to rural areas ‘post coronavirus’.

According to the Ministry of International Affairs and Communication’s ‘Annual report on internal migration in Japan derived from the basic resident registration’, the ‘excess relocation’ indicates that the number of people who ‘moved to’ Hokkaido from outside exceeded the number of those that ‘left Hokkaido’, and that for seven consecutive months from April to October, the ‘increase in influx’ exceeded 3,000.
 According to October’s ‘migration report’ (published on November 26), the number of people who moved to Hokkaido was 3,462. Exactly half of those (1,731) were from the Greater Tokyo area (Tokyo Metropolitan area, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures).
Among the migrants were cases of those who chose to relocate to Hokkaido permanently. The town of Niseko in Shiribeshi sub-prefecture accepts ‘local vitalization cooperators’ who wish to move there permanently. Last year saw 13 applicants, but the two recruiting periods of April and October this year attracted 29 applicants. According to the town’s Planning & Environmental Division, “there were applications from people who left their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, and demand was high.”. The job recruitment environment in urban areas is also changing, and is believed to be having an impact on the increase in potential migrants.

 In usual years, the number of migrants to Hokkaido tends to increase in summer when the climate is favorable. This year the number of excess relocations in July was 1,534, the highest monthly figure in the past 10 years. The actual number of those who moved to Hokkaido was 4,603, which was higher than last year’s figure of 4,379. By age group, the number of 15-24-year-olds rose by 300, and that of the 40-50 age group rose by over 100.
 However, on the whole, movement itself is decreasing due to Covid-19. The number of migrants into Hokkaido in October, which falls in the relocation season, was 101 fewer than in October last year. Even so, excess relocations were derived from the fact that the 525 fewer people left Hokkaido than during the same month last year.

One of the main factors of this is believed to be the reduction in population outflow in the form of business personnel reshuffles and job hunting outside Hokkaido, as a result of the economic stagnation due to Covid-19.
Hokkaido’s population tends to drain drastically at the end of the fiscal year in March, when those in their teens and twenties leave to go to university or to find work in the Greater Tokyo area and the like. But what will happen this fiscal year as the unprecedented increase in influx continues? Amid the relationship between rural and urban areas, focus will surely be on the movement of people at the end of the fiscal year.