China’s largest travel firm offers to freeze eggs for female executives
Photo: image.baidu.com

A travel firm in China has announced to pay for its female managers’ overseas journeys for freezing eggs, in bid for them to be more engaged in work during the prime time of their career. With more and more Chinese women using high-technology for giving birth or preserving fertility, industry insiders predict the country will surpass the US to become the biggest market for egg-banking in three years.

Ctrip, the largest online travel agency in China, launched a scheme this July offering its female executives “special maternity pays” ranging from 100,000 yuan to 2 million yuan for assisted reproductive technologies including egg freezing. Thepaper.cn, a Shanghai-based news portal, reported that over 50 Ctrip employees had consulted with the HR department for the scheme.

Thepaper.cn cited relevant data to report that during the October holiday, the number of Chinese women going abroad to freeze eggs had quadrupled compared with the previous year, shedding light on the fact that cutting-edge medical aids for preserving fertility were now more accepted by Chinese people.

It has been argued in recent years by international fertility experts that women who could not give birth before 40 should freeze their eggs as an insurance against potential fertility problems as they get older.
This July, the Ctrip announcement to provide a special maternity benefit for their senior female staff to have eggs frozen abroad provoked a heated debate on the Chinese social media. Many believe the new policy probably derived from the demographic study of Liang Jianzhang, a co-founder and executive chairman of the travel firm.

Liang is a well-known demographic researcher in China besides being a businessman, and has been studying connections between population, economic development and innovation. Liang previously alleged that the benefit scheme was intended at freeing female employees of childbearing age from pressures to get married and give birth, and help them fully engage in work in the golden days of their career.

A Ctrip staff in charge of the project told thepaper.cn most employees hold an open mind toward the policy. “The welfare is made accessible to senior women executives and engineers from the Chinese mainland (meaning those from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are not included). And there is no limit on age or marital status.”

Ctrip revealed that all qualified female employees could register for the funding anytime and select foreign medical institutions at their own discretion. Now the company could provide at most 100,000 yuan for egg-freezing operations in the US. Till now, three employees had signed contracts for the policy and one of them had finished the journey for freezing eggs in the US.

“The operation would relieve their pressures to get married or give birth while soothing their overanxious parents,” a female executive with Ctrip who didn’t want to be named said.

Ctrip is the first China-based technology company that provides maternity benefits like egg-freezing for female staff after Facebook and Apple offered to freeze eggs for their female employees respectively in 2014 and 2015.

Egg-freezing is no longer exclusive for China’s female celebrities, said Zhang Xin, the founder of IVF USA, Ctrip’s partner in the newly launched welfare scheme, who noted the technology is becoming more popular nowadays in the country. In comparison with overseas markets, the rise of Chinese women in society and career world has been more robust, leading a large number of middle-class women to consider advanced techniques to preserve fertility.

According to Zhang Xin, although the egg-freezing technology tends to target women right below 40, more and more single women born in the late 1980s and early 1990s are regarding it as an alternative.

“In recent years, there are many Chinese women who have come all the way to the US for freezing eggs. It’s safe to say China now has the fastest growing numbers of customers for the technology,” Zhang said, predicting that in three years’ time, China will become the top market for egg-banking. An ever-growing consumer base, change of traditional views and a rising incidence of infertility are the key factors driving the trend.

At the current stage, it’s known that the authorities in China still prohibit single women from receiving operations using “assisted reproductive technologies” like egg-freezing, so single women could only have similar operations done abroad. In 2015, celebrated Chinese actress Xu Jinglei admitted to having her eggs frozen in the US, referring to the operation as the “world’s only medicine for regret”.   

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