Japan's Government officials said on Friday that the state plan to offer employment in farming and fishing to victims of the economic recession, who were rendered jobless following the global financial meltdown. The government believes that this move could resuscitate the country's ageing countryside amid worsening economic climate.
Japanese companies have slashed tens of thousands of jobs, many held by young people on temporary contracts, as the global slowdown cuts demand for cars, electronics and other goods made by Asia's largest economy.
Japan has one of the world's lowest birthrates and with young people for years flocking to the cities, the countryside has been rapidly greying.
As part of Prime Minister Taro Aso's emergency economic package, the government is paying expenses for 800 jobless people to go on 10-day trips to learn how to process and sell agricultural produce.
In the financial year starting in April, the programme will be expanded to offer year-long stays in farming and fishing villages to about 50 people, agriculture ministry official Hisao Muneta said.
The programme "is aimed at recruiting potential successors for the agricultural and fisheries industries", he said. "Some participants in the programme will hopefully settle permanently in villages."
Farmers and fishermen often find it difficult to persuade young people to stay in small towns, where other types of work are scarce. Japan relies on imports for around 60 percent of its food, the highest rate among rich nations.
Muneta said young people could also bring new dynamism to rural communities.
"Even a small thing such as showing how to post a blog on the Internet would be great help to ageing farmers and fishermen in promoting their products," he said.
The agriculture ministry will ask for help from groups that have recruited young people in the past to resettle in rural villages, officials said.