Remote Workers May Help Boost Dwindling Local Economies

A website promoting remote side jobs could help businesses in rural areas overcome a range of obstacles

remote workers
Rice farmer in Japan

Furusato Kengyo, a website launched to promote side jobs and expand the use of remote workers has the potential to affect positive change for businesses in rural economies.

With ageing populations and the movement of young people to major cities, rural communities have struggled to boost spending in their regions. However, recent interest in rural projects has been on the rise.

Website recruits remote workers looking for a side job

Furusato Kengyo, roughly translated to “side jobs for hometowns,” aims to help businesses in remote regions by recruiting company employees and students to work on side jobs online in their free time.

The city of Hida, in Gifu Prefecture, used the website to hire skilled professionals who could help rice farms in the area to increase sales of their locally-produced premium rice.

So far, three people joined the initiative to boost sales of what is declared in Hida to be “the world’s best rice”. One of them is a salesman from a car company in Aichi Prefecture who has implemented fresh marketing and branding strategies, as well as new sales channels.

“Not many of us possess a lot of knowledge on things like sales expansion, so it was good to have someone with a marketing background,” said Shoko Ueda, a Hida city official.

the city hopes that by increasing awareness of its premium rice brand, the profitability of the farms will rise and bring young people back to the area

Rural Japan hindered by lack of successors for vital roles

Hida is like many other rural towns and villages across Japan that are experiencing problems due to a lack of workers and successors for farms. Those who remain to work have their hands full coping with the day-to-day running of their operations, leaving little time to focus on developing new sales strategies.

With around 40 per cent of Hida’s population aged 65 or over, the city hopes that by increasing awareness of its premium rice brand, the profitability of the farms will rise and bring young people back to the area.

“Local enterprises are eager to incorporate fresh ideas from skillful workers and boost manpower — even if it is for the short term,” says Shuji Minamida, head of a Gifu-based nonprofit organisation that runs the website.

Helping rural communities while working from home

The majority of the jobs posted on the website relate to primary industries or small- and medium-sized companies, such as local building contractors and traditional craft makers.

Side jobs from all over Japan are advertised on the website. However, most of the work can be done online with minimal site visits required from those recruited, and any travel expenses are covered by the employer.

Since its launch in 2018, Furusato Kengyo has requested help for approximately 120 projects and had around 800 people, mainly from cities like Tokyo and Osaka, submit applications for work on the side jobs promoted.

The website has seen interest in its side jobs rise, with the number of applicants doubling in March and April, as people were urged to stay at home and work remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Would you consider taking on a side job to help rural communities? Let us know in the comment section.

"Otsumami" - a bite size snack:

Part-time remote workers can provide rural communities with the extra tools they need to promote their products to a wider market.

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