Friday, December 22, 2006

"I'm pregnant" pins on the train

Railway operators in Japan are giving pregnant riders badges that say "I'm pregnant", hoping that this will make other riders more likely to give up their seats to expectant mothers.

There are several factors at work here. One is that pregnant women in Japan are harder to spot nowadays because unlike in the not-too-distant pass, they don't always start wearing baggy maternity outfits the minute they find they're pregnant.

Another factor is the belief that young people today are simply less willing to give up their seats for anyone, but an "I'm pregnant" pin would make the wearer harder to ignore, the logic goes.

Then there's the dietary reality that some Japanese are, ahem, heftier today than in the past thanks to the influx of western-style fast food and whatnot. How's a subway rider to know for sure that a large-bellied woman is really pregnant? A false positive in such situations is highly embarrassing, after all.

Then there's Japan's nation-wide hand-wringing over falling fertility rates. Fewer babies today means fewer workers to pay taxes 30 years from now, and the government is trying all sorts of measures to encourage couples to have more kids. Who knows—for a few women out there debating whether to have a child, improved chances of getting a seat on the train may be a deciding factor.

"Baby on board" is the rough translation.

—Mellow Monk

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