The State Council of Legislative Affairs is considering tweaking China’s official maternity leave policy and is currently soliciting input from the public, according to a report on msn.com’s Chinese-language news site.
Under the proposal, which would replace the current policy that was effected in 1988, the number of maternity leave days would be increased from "90 days to 14 weeks" (98 days). Other stipulations include two additional weeks off for "difficult births," and two extra weeks off for each baby if you have multiple babies. Women who suffer miscarriages (or undergo abortions) in their first four months of pregnancy can also get a minimum of two paid weeks off and after four months, it goes up to six full paid weeks.
But what remains unclear is how this new policy would affect mothers over the age of 24 who currently receive an additional 18 days leave for their "advanced age" – if these moms (which are probably now in the majority) are still allowed the additional days under this system, then it’s all well and good, but if not then they actually stand to lose some valuable time off. Moreover the rules would not apply to mothers who violate China’s one-child policy (never mind that their babies would have already been born) and there’s no indication of any leave allotted to new dads – which seems hardly fair in my biased opinion.
Even with the additional time off, China’s maternity leave policy still seems rather paltry compared with many other countries. The former Eastern Bloc countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, for example, allow new mothers between two to four years off (with full pay!). Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway are also known for their generous parental leave policies – up to 16 and 13 months at full pay, respectively, not to mention 12 mandatory weeks of paid paternity leave in the case of Norway (compare that with the five working days I was given my company when our daughter was born).
Of course not every country is that generous and judging from this Wikipedia post, Asian countries in general seem to short shrift their moms in allotted days off, especially when compared to Europe.
But don’t feel too bad: even the worst examples on the list aren’t as bad as my home country of the US, which is one of only five countries in the world that doesn’t even require employers to provide some form of paid maternity leave and consistently ranks among the as one of the worst industrialized nations to live in for mothers.
From now until December 23rd, the general public is being invited to offer their suggestions on this proposal. Click here if you can read Chinese and want to give the government your two cents.