Japan’s new minister in charge of tackling falling birthrate tried ‘pregnancy belly’ to understand problem

Japan’s Minister of State for Measures for Declining Birthrate Masanobu Ogura (Reuters)
Japan’s Minister of State for Measures for Declining Birthrate Masanobu Ogura (Reuters)

Japan has appointed a male minister to tackle the country’s falling birthrate. To deepen his understanding of the issue, minister Masanobu Ogura in turn tried out a “pregnancy belly”.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida appointed Mr Ogura following a cabinet reshuffle to takle an issue that is becoming increasingly challenging for the Japanese economy.

But the appointment of the 41-year-old former banker sparked controversy as he takes over the post from ruling party veteran Seiko Noda, a mother of one.

Ms Noda slammed the party’s decision to replace her in an interview with Associated Press last month, blaming a male-dominated political world for “indifference and ignorance” toward a record low birthrate.

But Mr Ogura, who is married with no children, claimed he is trying to bring a “young and fresh perspective” to address the problem.

To deepen his understanding of the issue, Mr Ogura tried out a “pregnancy belly” as part of a project organised by the youth division of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in April last year, according to Bloomberg News.

The fake pregnancy belly was a body-tied suit that weighed about 7.5kg, through which he attempted to show the difficulties pregnant women face while working.

He also detailed his experience of living with the belly and experiencing physical difficulties such as back pain in a blog post.

The move, while symbolic of one of the problems pregnant women face, is hardly enough to give a sense of the difficulties of a female body.

In Japan, the death rate is now higher than the birth rate and the dwindling figures have been raising concerns about the economic impact for years. The number of newborns in the country last year was a record low of 810,000.