Why ma­ter­nity leave is such a hot is­sue

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

You’d think of­fer­ing moth­ers of new­borns more paid time off would be mu­sic to the ears of those plan­ning to have a fam­ily one day, but not all women have wel­comed moves by China’s prov­inces to ex­tend paid ma­ter­nity leave.

Since 2012, Chi­nese women have been en­ti­tled to at least 98 days paid ma­ter­nity leave. But since the in­tro­duc­tion of the twochild pol­icy at the start of last year, many prov­inces and re­gions keen to lift the birth rate now re­quire em­ploy­ers to go above and be­yond that, re­sult­ing in a patch­work of in­cen­tives for new par­ents across China.

The Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion is set to become the most gen­er­ous in the coun­try, granting moth­ers a whole year at home with

This Day, That Year

Item­fromJuly19,1994,in Chi­naDaily:Ru­ral­folkin Yang­gao,Shanx­iprovince, wel­cometap­wa­ter,bid­ding farewell­tothe­daysof­draw­ing­wa­ter­fromwells.

Th­e­lo­calen­vi­ron­ment bureau’sdrink­ing­wa­ter­pro­gramhas­ben­e­fited­about 30,000peo­ple.

Pro­vid­ing safe drink­ing water to ru­ral res­i­dents has been a pri­or­ity for cen­tral and lo­cal govern­ments for the past few decades.

In 2000, China launched a their new­borns. Fathers will also be able to ac­cess 30 days paid leave.

That over­takes Guang­dong’s 208 days, which was pre­vi­ously China’s long­est, and is up there with the best in the world.

Swe­den is of­ten men­tioned as the model in this area, granting the pri­mary carer 56 weeks of paid time off to be taken any time in the child’s first eight years. The time can be shared be­tween ei­ther par­ent.

At the other end of the scale, the United States is one of four coun­tries that doesn’t have paid ma­ter­nity leave, with the idea dis­missed as a job killer.

Dur­ing last year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Donald Trump floated six weeks of paid ma­ter­nity leave that was typ­i­cally light on de­tail. Sur­prise, sur­prise, there has been lit­tle talk of it since he stepped into the Oval Of­fice.

In the mid­dle is the United King­dom, which guar­an­tees moth­ers 39 weeks of paid leave, and Aus­tralia man- drink­ing water safety project in vil­lages.

By the end of 2015, 571 mil­lion peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas had ac­cess to clean water, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Water Re­sources.

Dur­ing the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in­vested more than 1.2 tril­lion yuan ($177 bil­lion) in ru­ral water projects, the min­istry said.

In the next four years, 80 per­cent of the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion will have ac­cess to tap water, and 85 per­cent to a dates 18 weeks.

While the ben­e­fits of sup­port­ing par­ents to spend more time with their child in the first months of their life are well-doc­u­mented, govern­ments man­dat­ing paid ma­ter­nity leave tend to be more fo­cused on eco­nomic mat­ters. China is one of many coun­tries grap­pling with an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and the wor­ry­ing ef­fect that will have on the work­force, health­care costs and taxes. When the birth rate dropped to record lows in Aus­tralia a decade ago, a top of­fi­cial fa­mously im­plored cou­ples: “You should have one for the fa­ther, one for the mother and one for the coun­try.”

In­sert­ing na­tional duty into fam­ily plan­ning only goes so far; eas­ing the eco­nomic bur­den of an­other mouth to feed is more ef­fec­tive.

But rather than cel­e­brat­ing China’s progress in this area, it ap­pears some women are wor­ried.

On so­cial me­dia, com­menters ex­pressed con­cern that it would put women at a cen­tral­ized sup­ply net­work, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Hu­man Rights Ac­tion Plan of China (2016-20) re­leased by the State Coun­cil, China’s Cab­i­net, last year.

To guar­an­tee water safety, en­vi­ron­men­tal au­thor­i­ties have strength­ened the pro­tec­tion of water sources, such as rivers and lakes, and dis­ad­van­tage in the work­force. A 26-year-old woman com­mented that she was “of­ten asked if I have a boyfriend and if I am plan­ning to get mar­ried in the near fu­ture dur­ing in­ter­views with em­ploy­ers”.

De­mog­ra­pher He Yafu has sug­gested the gov­ern­ment of­fer sub­si­dies to en­ter­prises that hire fe­male work­ers to ease the bur­den caused when they have chil­dren. While that might work, govern­ments shouldn’t have to pay a com­pany not to dis­crim­i­nate against women. Get­ting the best per­son for the job should be mo­ti­va­tion enough and if not, govern­ments should fo­cus more on chang­ing em­ploy­ers’ at­ti­tudes and clamp­ing down on gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Con­tact the writer at rose­mary_b@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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ex­panded qual­ity con­trol.

Last year, 430 bil­lion yuan was al­lo­cated to about 4,800 projects to pro­tect water qual­ity and pre­vent pol­lu­tion, the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion said.

CHANNI ANAND / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A man tries to pro­tect his child from the pelt­ing rain by cov­er­ing him with a shirt as he pushes a cart in Jammu, In­dia, last week.

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