Japan will start allowing civil servants to take up to ten days of paid leave a year to receive fertility treatment in a bid to boost the country's birth rate.
The scheme has been introduced as a response to the population of Japan slipping below 126 million, making the country drop out of the top ten most populated countries for the first time since 1950 – 71 years ago.
In 2020, the number of newborn babies in Japan fell to a record low of 840,832 and the fertility rate dropped to just 1.34 children per woman.
But to keep the population of Japan at its current level, the fertility rate should be at 2.1 children per woman.
Yuko Kawamoto, president of the National Personnel Authority, said: "The public sector will take the initiative."
She added that she hoped the private sector in Japan would follow suit with allowing its employees to take ten days of paid leave per year to receive fertility treatment, according to the Kyodo news agency.
In a survey carried out this year, some civil servants said it was "impossible" to balance fertility treatment with their work, citing frequent visits to see a doctor, costs and scheduling conflicts.
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Before the new scheme was introduced, employees had to use their annual leave or sick leave to receive fertility treatment. They will now be able to take time off by the hour, which offers flexibility.
This comes after parallels have been drawn in Japan between the rapid population decline and the rise in popularity of technological devices, such as sex robots and “AI girlfriends”.
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Demography experts have partially blamed "a national mood of loneliness and alienation" on the rise in sex doll usage among Japanese men seeking sexual gratification.
Dr Kate Devlin, senior lecturer in social and cultural artificial intelligence at King's College London, said the question of technology usage among males is proving to be a cause for concern in Japan.
“There are fears that in countries such as Japan, where loneliness is a big social problem, robots could make things worse. Already there are AI 'girlfriends',” she told Daily Star Online back in 2019.
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