BOON OR BANE?
As many as 12 million Indian women could lose their jobs next year due to a new law which makes it mandatory for employers to allow 26 weeks paid maternity leave. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act had been passed in March 2017, which had increased paid leave for employees after giving birth from the previous 12 weeks. It also made day care centres mandatory for companies with more than 50 employees.
While this was seen as a boost for women’s rights, the downside is that employers, especially of smaller companies, could be less likely to hire women due to the demands of the Act. This is not good news for a country where nearly 20 million women had left the workplace between 2004 and 2012. The female labour force is just 24%, the worst in South East Asia and among the G-20 nations, only outdoing Saudi Arabia.
In 2017, a World Bank policy paper found that having a young child in the home depresses mothers’ employment. The ‘motherhood penalty’ sees India’s most educated women quitting their jobs midway through their careers.