Sperm bank in China issues social media call-out offering cash

Alice Yan, South China Morning Post

Posted at Apr 02 2021 11:28 AM

A sperm bank in China is so desperate for donors it has taken to social media to call for volunteers to fill a shortage in donors and is offering lucrative cash payments for quality men.

The Zhejiang Human Sperm Bank, based in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, has repeatedly called out for donors during the past few months.

“Your kindness sparks hope, your devotion helps the future,” a Weibo post by the sperm bank said on Saturday. “We invite you to do public service and donate your sperm!”

An earlier post read, “Donating sperm is the same as donating blood, it’s a noble humanitarian act, it shows a whole new understanding of life.”

“We offer you 5,000 yuan (US$760), just to find the best batch in the city. What are you waiting for?” the post said. 

The public has reacted with glee, making jokes at the rare sight of a sperm bank advertising on social media.

“I’m colourblind and too old, I’m pretty sure I will not be qualified,” one person commented on Weibo. 

“What if I donated so much sperm that I have unknown children all across the country in the future?” another asked. 

However, the reality for sperm banks in China isn’t as cheerful as the social media reaction suggests.  Sheng Huiqiang, director of the Zhejiang Human Sperm Bank, told the local Qianjiang Evening News that the bank has been facing a serious shortage in recent years. He said that even though there have been many phone calls asking about donating, few actually turn up. Among those who do come, even fewer qualify. 

Sheng has been working at the sperm bank since its establishment in 2005. Back then the staff tried to recruit donors from universities but were not successful, he said. The schools were enthusiastic in advertising against abortion, but hesitated when talking about donating sperm. 

“Even though our society is developing, the public is not entirely okay with this, they are not open enough about it,” he said. 

The staff had to talk to the students one by one. At first, they only had a few dozen donors every year. Gradually, more and more joined the force. Now, the sperm bank has about 1,500 donors every year. 

However, the number is still not enough, as the sperm quality drops every year, he said. 

“Right now, only about 400 out of our 1,500 donors qualify for donation, about 27 per cent. In the beginning, the sperm quality rate was about 40 per cent,” he said.  Sperm quality is measured as acceptable if after freezing there are more than 12 million sperms per millilitre.

He believes it sends a message that the health of Chinese men is declining due to a variety of factors, including smoking, drinking, staying up late and a lack of exercise. A previous study from the sperm bank found that among college students in the city, the best sperm quality comes from those majoring in physical education. 

There are other requirements from the sperm bank that filter out donors. One has to be between 20 and 40 years old, needs to have at least a post-secondary degree, and be at least 1.65 metres (5.4ft) tall, according to a notice on the bank’s official website. 
Sheng said in recent years they added another examination to eliminate baldness. He said families that choose sperm donors have more personalised needs now, including for the donor to be fair-skinned and handsome. 

The qualified sperm are provided to families who cannot conceive or have hereditary diseases. This sperm bank has helped over 2,000 families every year and in the 16 years since its founding, 11,420 babies have been born, Sheng said.