The falling birthrate is a major social problem in Japan, and the government frequently investigates various strategies to encourage women to give birth at a younger age.
While we’ve seen some unusual suggestions, such as outlawing abortion, recent weeks have seen a more practical approach, such as increasing maternity leave to three years, and now, improving education for girls as they approach their teens and early twenties. The new “Women’s Notebooks”, will educate women about the dangers of postponing pregnancy past their mid-thirties, emphasizing that the most appropriate age to give birth is between 25 and 35.
However, as many online comments show, this new approach, which falls under the umbrella of the Abe administration’s “Big-Boned Policy” [policies aimed at huge social changes], seems to place an unfair pressure on women when it comes to childbirth.
But should women feel pressured to give birth early as part of their life plan? Or should a woman’s course in life be an individual decision?
From MSN Sankei News:
Government To Introduce “Women’s Notebooks” For Girls From Teens Onward; Adjustments Made As Part of Big-Boned Policy: “What Age Should You Get Pregnant? Think About Your Life Plan”
It was revealed on May 4 that the government is reviewing the introduction of “Women’s Notebooks” (provisional title) which are to enlighten women from their teens onward about the physiological mechanisms of their bodies and their plans for the future. The aim is to make it known that it is better, medically speaking, for women to get pregnant and give birth up until they reach their early thirties, and to put an end to “late marriage and late childbirth”. The notebooks are being worked on as part of the “Big-boned Policy” to be announced in June.
As part of strategies to counter the falling birth rate, the government has prioritised system reform to make it easier to take maternity leave and educational leave, as well as plans and policies centered on the child-bearing generations, but judged that strategies against late marriage and late childbirth are also essential in resolving the falling birth rate. Abe Shinzo’s cabinet have established this as a key political strategy, and having reflected this in the big-boned policy, they are considering earmarking funds for a survey in next year’s budget.
The cabinet’s “Taskforce On Breaking Through The Dangers Of A Falling Birthrate” (Chairperson: Mori Masako, Minister of State for the Declining Birthrate) takes the stance that rather than the “Mother-Child Health Notebook” which is currently distributed by local authorities to women upon the discovered of a pregnancy, it is more effective to introduce “Women’s Notebooks” from an early stage. They expect that the new notebooks will be distributed all together during the early teens, when girls receive the cervical cancer vaccine, and at age 20, when girls begin having screening for cancers of the cervix and womb.
It is generally assumed in medical circles that the most appropriate ages for pregnancy and childbirth are between 25 – 35 years old. It is clear that as women age, their eggs also become old; from the late thirties it becomes difficult to fall pregnant, and it is difficult for fertility treatments to be effective. However, this is not dealt with at all in schools and education.
The “Women’s Notebooks” recommend pregnancy and childbirth up to the mid-thirties, and indicate the importance of dealing with marriage and childbirth in your life plan. Still, since these are also personal choices, the advice in the books is simply intended to enlighten women about these facts. Furthermore, the cabinet has a policy of trying to improve the situation whereby couples are reluctant to get married due to economic circumstances, and will embark on a bold financial support program for newly-married couples.
According to the age breakdown in results obtained about assisted reproductive technology by The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, pregnancy rates drop to 15% for 40 year-old women, when the rate for who were around 35 was just above 20%.
Comments from Twitter:
People are going to think that this is awful, but I guess I’m one of the ones who agrees with this policy～
I never imagined that this was the kind of stuff in women’s notebooks!!!!
I think that the aim of informing women about things like “your eggs get older as you age” is a good thing, since a surprising number of women don’t know this, but I have no interest in a notebook that basically says “hurry up and get married”.
Kinda want to cry now.
Hmmm. Seems like there’ll be a “Men’s Notebook” before too long. What age you should lose your virginity, how many people you should have had sex with by what age, and so on. Well, I guess in a sense that would be more equal between men and women.
Before notebooks, they should prioritize support strategies for those bringing up children. And then we’ll talk about notebooks.
It’s because of adults like this that women are stuck between a rock and a hard place! Shouldn’t they make a society where it’s easy to have children before doing stuff like this?
Hmm…from the same perspective a “Man’s Notebook” is also necessary! Pregnancy and childbirth is only the woman’s problem!
Somehow I get the impression that we’re being rushed into childbirth and marriage….I know that they’re trying to let people know about the best age to have children, but still…
Seems to me like these women’s notebooks just see women as tools for bearing children and nothing more. I want this kind of stuff to stop.
Saying they’re going to revise the constitution, saying this about the notebooks…isn’t the LDP a bit much, just picking fights with everyone because now they don’t have any election rivals?
I don’t suppose they’ll make a “Man’s Notebook”. Things are a bit more relaxed than they are for women, but men’s reproductive capacities also diminish with age, don’t they?
So these are going to be distributed to single women? Hideous.
Marriage and kids cost money. That’s the reality.
Makes me feel sick. It’s like they just don’t get it. I mean, why a women’s notebook? Is none of this relevant to men?
Even if they don’t distribute these things, can’t they just teach it in schools? They could just add it to textbooks. Stop using money like fools!! I don’t want their bloody notebook!
Women’s life plans are complicated…The decisions they have to make from their late teens to their twenties are just too wide-ranging. And according to these decisions their paths in life can be so easily fixed in one direction or another. The focus of the notebooks seems to be childbirth, but they should enhance them with things about the other choices that women have to make outside of having children.