June 7, 2007 — -- Japan is using a controversial new strategy to boost its birthrate: It's offering financial incentives to families for having babies.
Under pressure from the Japanese government, employers are offering baby bonuses in the form of everything from cell phones to cold, hard cash.
The Nakatsuka family got more than a bundle of joy when their third child, Yui, was born.
They got cash as well -- an $8,000 bonus from the husband's employer, the Japanese telecom company Softbank. It was a bonus for having another child.
The baby bonus is policy at Softbank, which bills itself as Japan's most family-friendly company.
At the company, employees are encouraged to take more time off to be with their children and work at home when they need to. And then there are the baby bonuses, which range from $400 for a first child to up to $40,000 for a fifth child.
But there's another reason for Softbank's generosity: patriotism.
Japan is faced today with a rapidly aging and now shrinking population.
Young Japanese citizens say it's too expensive to have kids, and women in particular don't want to give up their careers and lifestyles for motherhood.
A few years ago, local governments began offering cash bonuses to boost the population in rural Japan.
Now, corporate Japan is joining the battle.
Panasonic, Canon and Sharp have all offered financial aid for working mothers. Some companies even pay for fertility treatments.
But nothing quite beats those Softbank bonuses.
The Nakatsuka family could end up with an additional $60,000 if they have a fourth and fifth child.
Each child also gets a free mobile phone with Softbank paying the phone bills.