Tokyo will begin subsidizing egg freezing for female residents in an effort to reverse a catastrophically low birth rate in Japan.
“We recognize that the declining birth rate is a critical situation,” Yoshihiko Isozaki, deputy chief cabinet secretary, said at a briefing on Tuesday. “My understanding is that various factors are closely intertwined, preventing people from realizing their hopes for marriage, childbirth and child rearing.”
The new policy will provide up to 300,000 yen (about $2,200) per person to up to 300 Tokyo residents annually, potentially starting in 2023, The Asahi Shimbun reported.
The funds are part of an overall budget of 100 million yen (about $733,000) that also includes a survey to evaluate the application before a formal launch in 2024.
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“There are a lot of employees who are torn between building their careers and getting pregnant and having a baby,” said a representative of Tokyo-based cosmetics maker Pola, which has begun funding an egg-freezing program for employees in 2022, he said, adding such programs can provide “a sense of relief.”
Japan first sounded the alarm in 2016 after a census found the country’s population declined by nearly a million people in the previous five-year period. Local governments launched a number of initiatives, including plans to subsidize egg freezing procedures, but the effort seemed to dent slightly as the population continued to decline.
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The country reached a peak population of 128.1 million in 2008, but that number would decline to 125.7 million by 2021, according to World Bank data.
This includes the lowest number of newborns ever recorded in Japan since the country began keeping records in 1899, Japan’s health ministry announced on Tuesday.
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Births reached 799,728 in 2022, down 5.1 percent from 2021, with deaths rising 8.9 percent to 1.58 million over the same period, the Japan Times reported.
In a speech opening the 2023 session of Japan’s parliament, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the country was “on the verge of not being able to maintain social functions” due to the population crisis, Asia reported. times.
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Kishida has made supporting children and families a priority, with plans to announce additional child education policies by June and potentially double the budget allocation to fund them.
The government has already allocated around $35.2 billion from its 2023 budget to address the problem.