Japanese city takes steps to boost birth rate
Tokyo: With a growing number of women delaying motherhood in favour of their careers, the Japanese city of Urayasu will begin a programme from April to finance the freezing of eggs in order to boost the birth rate, media reported Friday.
The programme would involve collaboration with Juntendo University Hospital, where women between 20 and 35 years of age can have their eggs harvested while having to bear only 30 percent of the costs.
The city government would pay the remaining 70 percent of the cost, the NHK news agency reported.
When the women decide they want to become pregnant, the eggs will be defrosted and used.
In Japan it can cost up to 700,000 yen ($5,964) per year to preserve 10 eggs, plus 10,000 yen ($85) per year for every egg beyond the first year.
Urayasu, with 150,000 residents, is the first city to launch such an initiative, according to the Japan Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Fertility is known to decline with age and it has been proven that eggs from peak reproductive periods provide better chances for a future pregnancy.
The programme could also be utilised by cancer patients, whose fertility can be affected while undergoing treatment.
A low birth rate is one of the major concerns of the Japanese government as the current birth rate could lead to a 20 percent decline in the country's population in the next 50 years, causing a shortage of manpower which could have serious consequences for the economy.
Since November 2013 when women were allowed to preserve their eggs without medical reasons, private initiatives have increased around the country.
Multinational firms like Apple and Facebook offer their employees up to $20,000, included in their medical insurance, for them to freeze their eggs so they can pursue their careers while young and get pregnant later.