Aug 15, 2016

    Japanese companies help female staff get pregnant


    JAPAN ranks lowest among developed countries in people's knowledge of how to make babies.

    Noting this fact, some firms feel obliged to join the government in spreading fertility literacy through in-house courses.

    A typical class, such as that offered by Osaka-based Rohto Pharmaceutical to female workers, will begin with questions that may seem silly to a non-Japanese.

    "Is it true that a woman is less fertile after the age of 36?" goes one, according to the Synodos Japanese web journal.

    But some questions could floor anyone, such as this: "Is it true these days a woman in her 40s has a similar chance of getting pregnant as a woman in her 30s?"

    "Eggs start 'ageing' when (women) reach around 35," Sakae Goto, a fertility specialist, told around 30 Rohta female workers at one class, Kyodo news agency reported.

    One woman in her 30s said, "I didn't know the best timing for conception is one to two days before ovulation."

    Japan's fertility rate is 1.46 babies per woman last year, the lowest among industrialised countries.

    And that is correlated to the rise in the average age of Japanese mothers at the birth of their first child - 30.3 in 2012, according to London-based Reproductive Health Journal.

    One surprising finding of a survey was that more than 36 per cent of young Japanese women believed they could be impregnated at 60 years old and chose to delay child-bearing as long as possible.

    Such ignorance has played a role in Japan's falling fertility trend, noted the journal.

    Other firms are also pitching in to tackle the lack of babies.

    CyberAgent, an information technology firm, and printer maker Fuji Xerox offer special leave for staff to undergo fertility treatment.

    Toyota Motor is also looking at whether to allow staff to take leave for five days per year to receive such treatment.

    Mitsubishi Estate, a developer, is working on measures, covering meals, exercise and sleep, to improve employees' lifestyle and hence fertility chances.

    According to a survey, over 91 per cent of Japanese who visited fertility clinics found it hard to "balance their struggle for a baby with their work", reported Asahi Shimbun.

    In fact, more than 42 per cent had to quit their job to focus on the endeavour, said the newspaper.

    Companies which provide systemic support to such couples are fewer than 6 per cent in Japan, added Asahi, quoting another survey.