Future of Work

These countries are paying people to move to the countryside

A countryside landscape

Escape to the country... remote work has made rural relocation easier. Image: Unsplash/Federico Respini

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Ian Shine
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: Centre for Urban Transformation

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This article was updated on 26 January 2023.

  • Japan, Portugal, Ireland and Australia are some of the countries offering rural relocation incentives.
  • In 2020, an Italian village with just 115 residents offered relocation grants of up to €8,000 a year for three years.
  • COVID-19 and remote working has made rural relocation more possible – and desirable – for some.

The countryside needs you – and many rural places will pay you to relocate there.

For some, the pandemic and the ability to work remotely has made this more possible.

Here are a few examples of paid rural relocation grants.

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EDISON Alliance: What is the Forum doing to close the digital gap?

Japan trebles payment to leave Tokyo

Tokyo's population has been slowly falling this decade, but the minor dip follows decades of major growth. Japan's government is so keen to get more people out of the capital that it is about to treble the amount it will pay to those who move away. From April, it will give families JPY 1 million ($7,500) per child to leave the greater Tokyo area.

Percentage of population in urban and rural areas, Japan
Japan is looking to halt population decline in rural areas. Image: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

It wants 10,000 people to move to rural areas by 2027, as it looks to halt population decline in these regions. Japan recorded its biggest annual fall in population in 2021, with a drop of around 630,000 because of plummeting birth rates. Some studies suggest that women who live in cities are less likely to have children.

Relocate to rural Portugal

In 2020, Portugal launched a rural grant scheme called Emprego Interior MAIS (Inland Employment PLUS).

Workers moving to rural areas can apply for up to €4,827 funding. In most Portuguese villages, this would be enough to cover the annual rent on a small house, says the Financial Times. Applicants need to stay for at least a year.

Have you read?

Ireland’s relocation incentives

In Ireland, the government unveiled a plan last year to attract workers to rural towns and villages as part of its Rural Future policy. It includes relocation grants and tax incentives for workers moving to rural areas.

Through a €1 billion Rural Regeneration Fund, the Irish government is also funding the creation of 400 remote working hubs in rural areas with high-speed internet access. These will be created by converting buildings like town halls, theatres and cinemas.

A tweet from @wef
Rural areas have traditionally lost people to cities. The new world of remote working might help change this dynamic. Image: Twitter/@wef

Italy’s call for new rural residents

In southern Italy, the Municipality of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, a mediaeval village with 115 residents, launched a relocation scheme in 2020, including grants of up to €8,000 a year for three years.

The offer included a house for a “symbolic rent” and a non-repayable grant of up to €20,000 for an entrepreneurial start-up.

The municipality wanted to fight the “depopulation and desertification” of rural areas, it said. Of Santo Stefano di Sessanio’s 115 residents, 41 were over 65 and only 13 were under the age of 20, the municipality added.

Get paid to relocate to the US – or Australia

Vermont, a state in the northeastern United States, offers up to $7,500 to cover relocation expenses for workers moving there.

Its schemes include the New Remote Worker Grant, for those working remotely for an employer from a home office or co-working space in Vermont.

Australia also offers relocation assistance, including up to AUS$6,000 if you relocate to a regional area.

Other places that have offered cash incentives to relocate there include Spain, Greece, Switzerland and Croatia.

A chart showing the percentage of US adults who said they'd prefer to live in a small town/rural area
The pandemic fuelled a drive in America to relocate from cities to rural areas. Image: Gallup

Remote workers can relocate

Rural areas have long competed with towns and cities for jobs, talent and investment.

But since COVID-19, new remote ways of working mean people can work from anywhere.

Surveys have shown growing interest in moving to rural areas. A survey by Gallup in 2020 found almost half of all adults in the United States said they’d prefer to live in a small town or rural area.

In a Microsoft survey of 31,000 people in 31 countries, the 2022 Work Trend Index, 52% of Gen Z workers – those born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s – say they are considering moving to a new location because they’re able to work remotely.

To help close the digital divide and enable global access to essential online services and opportunities, the World Economic launched The EDISON Alliance at Davos in 2021. Comprised of leaders from the public and private sectors who are prioritizing digital inclusion as foundational to the achievement of the United Nations’ sustainability development goals, it is working towards: “Improving one billion lives globally through affordable and accessible digital solutions across, at least, health, finance, and education by 2025.”

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