Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government aims to abolish the cap on income to make it easier for all couples to receive subsidies for fertility treatment as Japan faces a declining birth rate.

Suga’s remark came in response to calls that, in order for all couples to qualify for subsidies, the cap on their combined annual income currently set at ¥7.3 million ($70,000) should be abolished.

The country’s public health insurance covers only limited fertility treatment that could cost millions of yen. The abolition of the cap could possibly take effect next year.

“We hope to show in the budget plan what our support measures, which could be similar to extending health care coverage, will look like,” Suga told a meeting in Tokyo of business leaders. “We would like to abolish the income cap as well.”

A state budget plan for the next fiscal year is compiled in December.

Government officials are making preparations for expanding the scope of fertility treatment covered by public health insurance in 2022.

Japan has one of the world’s fastest-aging populations with the number of newborn babies hitting a record low in 2019. The country’s total fertility rate — the average number of children born per woman — stood at 1.36 that year.

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