Money To Breed
Within Japan what is considered one of the most serious long-term problems facing the country is a lack of young people. A combination of factors ranging from expensive education to ingrained social systems have resulted in a generation for whom having one or two children is the norm. The result is a population that is actually shrinking and aging, without enough young people to man the workforce or care for the elderly.
The government has been trying to figure out a way to encourage folks to have more children, and now private industry is getting involved as well.
The latest example is The Japan General Estate Co., Ltd. (J). On March 5th, they announced (J) a drastic new measure against the declining birth rate in Japan: “The Support System For Third Children.”
Starting April 1st, any employee who has a third (or more) child will have all child-rearing expenses covered by the company. This includes everything from hospital bills for the birth to education until the child graduates from Junior High School. This will, apparently, include even the astronomical costs associated with private schools, and the company is said to be considering medical expenses as well.
This is not the first effort the company has made to improve Japan’s declining birthrate; They have already upgraded and expanded their maternity leave system, as well as introduced a plan to help customers who are raising children.
Why are they doing this? They claim it’s part of an altruistic desire to contribute to the national effort to fight the decline in Japanese birth rates. Further, they say that it will motivate employees and inject energy into the work environment.
As far as it making business sense, some company spokespeople have said during interviews that the real estate business depends on there being people to sell homes to, so if you take a long enough view it’s a form of self preservation.
This is far from the only example of companies paying their employees to have more children.
According to an Asahi.com article (J), SoftBank (English site) will begin supporting children of employees born after April 1st with a sort of baby shower bonus.
The third child will receive 1 million yen (about US$8,500), the fourth 3 million, and the fifth and further children 5 million yen each. Even the bonus for first and second children will increase to 50,000 and 100,000 yen, respectively (US$425 and US$850).
Although these sorts of congratulatory gifts are not uncommon, payouts of 1 million yen or more are unusual even for large companies. Up to this point the “birth bonus” was based on how long the employee had been with the company, with amounts ranging form 3,000 to 15,000 yen (US$25-125) per child.
As for how the numbers work out, the benefit is available to any full-time employee who has worked at the company for at least one year, including employees of SoftBank’s three wholly owned subsidiaries, which ads up to 12,000 employees.
Currently, only 360 of their employees have three children, 53 have four, and a mere five have five children; they are apparently estimating that it will cost about 100 million yen (US$850,000) during the first year.
Still not convinced? When an employee’s child enters Middle School, SoftBank’s cellular phone subsidary will give them a smartphone of their own along with basic service for as long as the employee remains with the company.
The idea is being credited to Masayoshi Son, the company president. As for why, Asahi.com is reporting that the company believes it will improve the work environment and attract good employees.