Pregnant woman holding stomach
Underground womb-for-hire business in China is booming according to The Paper Ian Waldie/Getty Images

China's illegal surrogacy market is booming with vast numbers of women earning money through offering their wombs for service.

Women in rural villages are being lured away from their factory jobs to carry others' fertilised eggs to birth according to a two-month investigation by a state-run news site, The Paper, The Times reported.

Couples pay anywhere between £40,000 to £114,000 for surrogacy, and are even told they can guarantee the baby's gender. Agents claim they can do this by either testing the sex of the embryo or aborting babies of the unwanted sex, both of which are illegal practices in China.

One pregnant woman said: "You can make more than 100,000 yuan [£11,400] from each birth, something I would never be able to make in my whole life."

Because surrogacy is illegal in China, knowing the extent of these services is difficult however there are distinguishable triggers for the surge in demand. It is thought that 15 million Chinese couples are infertile- a figure blamed by some on pollution. In addition, in the aftermath of China's relaxation on it's one-child policy, many couples have found conceiving at an older age harder.

Such a demand has meant many hospitals are facing overcrowding and numerous couples asking for legal fertility treatments. When these fail however, they turn to the black market or going abroad for surrogacy.

Since this is an unregulated practise, there are risks for both the couples and the surrogates such as if the child is born with disabilities or the pregnancy goes wrong.

Despite the country's cultural judgement of women using their bodies for money, Chinese women are still being drawn into the business on account of its pay.

"My little daughter has done it several times. My older daughter just delivered twins for others. My daughter-in-law is now pregnant. I helped her for a few months until she was settled," a middle-aged woman said. "If you can bring home hundreds of thousands of yuan, which mother-in-law would pick quarrels with her daughter-in-law?"

Residents in one village told undercover journalists that more than 100 local women were working as surrogate mothers. "Sometimes mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are doing it together. One villager would introduce another to the business, just like introducing each other to factory jobs," one villager said.