The city of Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, is subsidizing efforts to help female residents freeze and store eggs for future use. It is also considering offering male residents the option to store frozen sperm.
The Urayasu oocyte cryopreservation program will be delivered at a new infertility treatment centre being established at a cost of 90 million yen ($755,500), in cooperation with the Juntendo University Urayasu Hospital. The aim is to counter a low birthrate and support future pregnancies, but the city also expects people at risk of becoming infertile due to cancer treatments to make use of the programme.
The plan could cut the cost to an individual of freezing an egg by more than two-thirds.
Signal of change spotted by Anna Simpson
Image: Scion Cho / Flickr
The convergence of higher life expectancy, moves towards gender parity, and a growing global middle class, means more women are having children later in life - or leaving it too late. Higher life expectancy also means that the disease burden is increasingly defined by long-term conditions, such as cancer, for which treatments can affect fertility.
Japan's population is ageing. In 2014, the estimated number of newborn babies fell to 1.001 million, the lowest figure on record, further contributing to the ageing and shrinking of the country’s population, according to official data and reported by Agence France Press. Data released by the Government in April 2014 showed the elderly making up a quarter of the total population for the first time. The proportion of people aged 65 or over is forecast to reach nearly 40% of the population in 2060, the Government has warned.
In light of these trends, support for women to have children later in life could prove crucial to the future economy of Japan. What further measures will governments take to support later parenting?