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Fukushima village reaches out to single-parent families after evacuation order lifted

KAWAUCHI, Fukushima -- The municipal government here, where an evacuation order, issued following the 2011 outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, was lifted on June 14, is encouraging single-parent families in urban areas to move to the village in a bid to put the brakes on its population decline and aging.

To that end, the Kawauchi Municipal Government plans to provide up to 800,000 yen in subsidies to each single-parent family that moves to the village.

"It's possible to live more comfortably in the village than in Tokyo and other urban areas," says an official of the municipal government in charge of the program.

A total of 51 people in 19 households in the Ogi and Kainosaka districts in eastern Kawauchi were affected by the evacuation order that was lifted on June 14. Most of these people have no plans to return home.

Evacuation orders had been lifted in all areas in the village apart from Ogi and Kainosaka by October 2014. Nevertheless, only about 1,800 of some 3,000 residents who had lived in the village before the disaster had returned by April 1 this year.

Approximately 40 percent of those who have returned are elderly people aged 65 or over.

As countermeasures against population decline and aging, the Kawauchi Municipal Government has decided to offer financial incentives to encourage single-parent households outside the village, including those in urban areas, to move in.

Specifically, the municipal government will provide 600,000 yen to each single-parent household that will live in the village to help them buy a car and move into their new home, and 50,000 yen per person (for up to four people) to cover miscellaneous expenses.

The maximum amount of the subsidies is 800,000 yen for a family comprising a parent and three children. The municipal government will introduce full-time jobs at companies operating in the village to those who move there, and provide a subsidy to cover half of the rent of privately owned apartments (up to 20,000 yen).

The municipal government will organize a two-day tour for those who are interested in the program July 29-30, and will begin to accept applicants for the tour as early as this week.

The village will use grants from the national government, which are part of measures to revitalize local economies, to finance the program. Under the program, the municipal government is considering accepting five to 10 new residents a year through fiscal 2017, and about 15 residents per year beyond that.

Moreover, a consultative council encouraging single-parent families to move into the village will be set up with the participation of a local women's association. Elderly women living in the village will support new residents' childrearing. Day care services are provided for free in the village.

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