Thu, 07 Dec 2023

  • Fertility Counts seeks to highlight the socio-economic impact of low birth rates on Asia-Pacific (APAC) economies.
  • New Fertility Policy Toolkit, designed by Economist Impact and supported by Merck, proposes evidence-based policy interventions to build more family-friendly societies in APAC.

LONDON, May 15, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Merck, a leading science and technology company, today launched a new initiative, Fertility Counts, which seeks to address the social, economic and societal challenges associated with low birth rates in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. The initiative is designed to provide research and resources to support policymakers to identify policy interventions that will be effective in building family-friendly societies.

The birth rates of many APAC countries have dramatically declined in the last 70 years, impacting both population size and structure. Across the region, the average number of children born per woman has dropped threefold since 1960, from 5.4 in 1960 to 1.8 in 2020,1 with some countries seeing even steeper drops. Although lower birth rates have led to enhanced social and economic opportunities for women across the region, many countries now face the challenge of maintaining economic growth with a declining work force, and of balancing the needs of an ageing society.1

"The trends we are seeing in fertility across the Asia-Pacific region will have long-term effects on all parts of society - the economy, the healthcare system, and on how the elderly are cared for in the future," said Professor Kamthorn Pruksananonda, Chairman of Reproductive Medicine at the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. "We now need to seriously explore policy solutions that enable and support people who want to have children, in order to address the drivers behind falling birth rates." 

The Fertility Policy Toolkit, designed by Economist Impact and supported by Merck, was guided by a panel of academic, clinical and public sector experts within the APAC region. The Toolkit focuses on four specific policy categories: childcare, workplace, financial incentives and assisted reproduction. Further, it provides guidance on which policies should be considered, as well as examples of how these policies can be implemented in countries based on their state of socio-economic development.

"Population trends have wide-reaching effects on society. With fewer children being born and life-expectancy increasing, many countries must now balance the needs of an ageing population with a declining workforce. Among all this change, how do you build a society that can thrive and is sustainable for future generations? That is the question facing many countries in the Asia-Pacific region," said Liz Henderson, Senior Vice President, APAC at Merck Group & Healthcare Sustainability Lead. "That is why we are delighted to launch Fertility Counts. We hope the resources provided through this initiative will support discussions, ignite change, and underscore how fertility really does count for sustaining a country's future."  

A dedicated website for Fertility Counts has also launched - - as a hub for the Fertility Policy Toolkit, associated research, and future resources being developed.


1. Economist Impact. Fertility policy and practice: a Toolkit for the Asia-Pacific region. Available at: Accessed May 2023.

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About Fertility Counts

Fertility Counts is a new initiative with input from private sector, public sector, and academia, looking at the social, economic, and societal impacts of declining birth rates. The initiative aims to encourage policymakers and advocates to prioritise socioeconomic incentives that enable and support people who want to have children and to further encourage sustainable, societal growth. For further information please visit:

About the Fertility Policy Toolkit

"Fertility policy and practice: a Toolkit for the Asia-Pacific region" is an Economist Impact report supported by Merck. The Toolkit provides policymakers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region an evidence base that can be used when discussing policies to address falling fertility rates. The Toolkit analyses the impact of child-friendly policies through an evidence-based literature review of global papers. The Toolkit was guided by a panel of academic, clinical and public sector experts within the APAC region. Findings are based on research carried out in Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan (China), Thailand, and Vietnam. To view the Toolkit please visit:

Merck in Fertility

Merck has a strong heritage of over 60 years of fertility expertise and is the world's market leader in fertility treatment. Through pioneering science and technology Merck develops and provides innovative therapeutics, digital health solutions, lab technologies and services to help people realize their dreams of parenthood, at every stage of their fertility journey. To date, more than 3.3 million babies have been born with the support of Merck's fertility treatments.

About Merck

Merck, a leading science and technology company, operates across life science, healthcare and electronics. More than 64,000 employees work to make a positive difference to millions of people's lives every day by creating more joyful and sustainable ways to live. From providing products and services that accelerate drug development and manufacturing as well as discovering unique ways to treat the most challenging diseases to enabling the intelligence of devices - the company is everywhere. In 2022, Merck, generated sales of 22.2 billion in 66 countries.

The company holds the global rights to the name and trademark "Merck" internationally. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the business sectors of Merck operate as EMD Serono in healthcare, MilliporeSigma in life science, and EMD Performance Materials. Since its founding in 1668, scientific exploration and responsible entrepreneurship have been key to the company's technological and scientific advances. To this day, the founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed company. 

About Economist Impact

Economist Impact combines the rigour of a think-tank with the creativity of a media brand to engage a globally influential audience. We believe that evidence-based insights can open debate, broaden perspectives and catalyse progress. The services offered by Economist Impact previously existed within The Economist Group as separate entities, including EIU Thought Leadership, EIU Public Policy, Economist Events and SignalNoise. Our track record spans 75 years across 205 countries. Along with creative storytelling, events expertise, design-thinking solutions and market-leading media products, we produce framework design, benchmarking, economic and social impact analysis, forecasting and scenario modelling, making Economist Impact's offering unique in the marketplace. Visit for more information.


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