• Kyodo


Around 30 female employees from Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. in Osaka are listening intently as Sakae Goto, a fertility specialist, gives a presentation at the drugmaker’s first in-house seminar on the topic.

“Eggs start ‘aging’ when (women) reach around 35,” Goto, who runs a fertility care clinic in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, tells the participants.

She goes on to suggest that they see a specialist to obtain the right information on what they should do if they want to get pregnant.

The event in May is among a growing number of initiatives being undertaken by major firms in a bid to better support women trying to conceive by providing them with professional advice, leave and other forms of aid — a trend emerging as the government beefs up assistance to couples troubled by infertility.

One of the attendees, who was in her 30s, said the seminar made her realize the importance of getting expert opinions. “I didn’t know the best timing for conception is one to two days before ovulation,” she said.

Japan’s birthrate is one of the lowest among industrialized countries, standing at 1.42 in 2014, compared with 1.86 in the United States, 1.98 in France and 1.37 in Italy, according to the government’s Declining Birthrate White Paper.

It edged up slightly to 1.46 in 2015, according to the government.

About 60 percent of the workforce are women at Rohto, a maker of consumer drugs such as eye drops and digestive medicines. It also lists ovulation predictor kits among its products.

The Osaka-based company says nearly all its eligible workers have taken maternity leave and returned to work. To provide further support to their employees, Rohto says it has decided to start fertility seminars.

“We want employees to stay with us long-term after giving birth to their children and returning to their jobs,” Masako Rikiishi, head of merchandize planning, said. “We thought it necessary to offer seminars to help employees stay healthy and happy.”

CyberAgent Inc., an information technology company, started offering special leave for employees who want to undergo fertility treatment as part of measures introduced in May 2014 to support workers raising children.

It covers around 700 female workers and around 10 applications for the leave have been made each month, according to the company.

Fuji Xerox Co. has also launched a leave system to support women planning fertility treatment, with up to six employees taking advantage of it annually, the office products company said.

Toyota Motor Corp. is holding talks with unionized workers about allowing employees to take around five days leave per year to receive fertility treatment.

The nation’s biggest automaker hopes that and another move — expanding telecommuting for workers — will help retain employees who would otherwise quit to raise children or care for elderly parents.

Mitsubishi Estate Co., a major developer handling office building properties in Tokyo’s central Marunouchi district, conducted a health survey of women in their 20s and 30s working in the district in fiscal 2014 and 2015.

The company says it found a correlation between infertility in some women and their long hours of work — 30 percent of 749 people in the 2014 survey were underweight with a body mass index reading of less than 19, a level feared to trigger infertility.

Many of these women have snacks late at night after long hours of work, feel heavy in the stomach the next morning and skip breakfast, which causes a lack of energy and necessary intake of nutrients, the study found.

The real estate company said it is planning to work out measures for its employees to improve their lifestyle, including meals, exercise and sleep, for a three-year period from this month.

It will also ask other companies in the Marunouchi area to join its effort, hoping to start from a relatively simple initiative such as encouraging workers to eat breakfast.

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