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Japan women called child machines
Japan's health minister has referred to women as "birth-giving machines" in a speech to a local political meeting.
Hakuo Yanagisawa called for women to do their best to bear children in order to counter Japan's plummeting birth rate and rapidly ageing population.
"Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head," he said.
He added: "Although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines."
Recent figures show that Japanese fertility fell to an average of just 1.26 children per woman in 2005.
Last year saw a slight rise for the first time in six years, but the country still faces a long-term trend that may see a 30% drop in the population in the next 50 years.
A rate of 2.1 is needed to maintain population levels.
Japan has the world's highest ratio of elderly to young people.
The trend raises serious concerns about the country's future economic growth and how it can fund its pensions.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to bring in policies that will tackle the falling birth rate.
His recent draft budget sought to increase support for child-care services.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/01/27 22:48:39 GMT
Japan minister dubs women "birth-giving machines"
Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:24 PM IST
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's health minister called women of child-bearing age "birth-giving machines" on Saturday, saying each should do her best to help boost the nation's rock-bottom birth rate, Kyodo news agency reported.
Japan's ageing and shrinking population has raised concerns about the country's economic growth potential and the government's ability to finance ballooning pension requirements.
"The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head, although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines," Kyodo quoted Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa as telling local party members.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in September, has pledged to take steps to make it easier for people to juggle work and child-rearing.
Japan's fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, fell to a record low of 1.26 in 2005. Estimates show the fertility rate probably increased slightly in 2006 but it is expected to resume its decline this year.
Japan's population started shrinking in 2004, and already one-fifth of the population is 65 or older.
Reports: Japan's health minister calls women 'birth-giving machines'
The Associated Press
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Japan's health minister described women as "birth-giving machines" in a speech on the country's falling birthrate, but later retracted the remarks, news reports said Sunday.
"The number of women between the ages of 15 and 50 is fixed. The number of birth-giving machines (and) devices is fixed, so all we can ask is that they do their best per head," Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa said in a speech Saturday, the Asahi and Mainichi newspapers reported.
Speaking to Kyodo News agency later in the day, Yanagisawa apologized saying the language he used was "too uncivil."
Health Ministry officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Japan's birth rate was 1.26 babies per woman in her lifetime in 2005, a record low and far below the level needed to keep the country's population steady.
The government has been scrambling to implement measures to persuade couples to have more children.
A proposal adopted in June calls for increasing child care, promoting greater gender equality, and encouraging companies to be more flexible in allowing staff time to take care of family responsibilities.
But the high cost of raising children, as well as the lingering notion that women should quit their jobs after giving birth, has meant many opt to have few or no children.