Japan's biggest long-term problems are a low birth rate and a shrinking population. Incoming Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to provide insurance coverage for infertility treatments.
He will also promote paternity leave for working fathers to ease the burden on working mothers. He has promised more help for single-parent households, more than half of which are living in poverty.
Japan’s total fertility rate — the average number of children born per woman during reproductive years — was 1.36 in 2019. The government hopes to raise the rate to 1.8.
However, experts say that the policy will not be a panacea for reversing the nation’s declining birth rate, especially in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic when many people are suffering financially.
Suga’s precedessor, Shinzo Abe, regarded the rapidly ageing population and falling number of births as a “national crisis,” and introduced free preschool education and day-care services.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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