Tokyo rail companies are providing pregnant women with badges in the hope of prompting other passengers on the Japanese capital’s crowded trains to offer them seats.
The pink and blue badges reading: “There is a baby in my belly” are being handed out at stations around the region to try to make commuting and other train journeys easier for pregnant women, who are often left standing. No proof of pregnancy is required.
“Especially in the early stages, it is difficult to tell from someone’s appearance whether they are pregnant,” said an official at the Health Ministry, which came up with the idea. “But these early stages are rather unstable and it is important to take care.”
The move comes as Japan scrambles for ways to persuade women to have more babies. The dwindling birth rate has left the nation with a shrinking population and the world’s highest proportion of elderly people.
“We want to create an environment that is pleasant for pregnant women,” the agency official said.
Many welcomed the move.
“When I was three months pregnant and got on the train, no one would really notice me and I couldn’t really ask them to give me a seat,” said Yoshiko Kato, a self-employed 38-year-old who is five months pregnant. “So these badges, I hope, will help some people to notice I am pregnant,” she said.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.