Workplace nurseries, paternal leave may balance prejudice
Greater pro-natal incentives, including extended maternal leave and financial subsidies, may increase the extent of gender discrimination against female employees, warned experts after reports that China's top health authority is mulling pushing forward such incentives, as part of efforts to implement a more relaxed birth policy.
Wang Pei'an, deputy head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), said at a national academic conference on social security held on Saturday in Beijing, that China is considering new pro-natal incentives across the nation to make it easier to both work and raise young children.
The incentives may include the establishment of nurseries at workplaces, extension of maternity leave and spousal paternity leave and higher financial subsidies, reported news website caixin.com.
Mothers in South China's Guangdong Province have maternity leave of up to 208 days, 110 days longer than the previous allowance, the longest in the country.
While reiterating that China's relaxed childbirth policy has been steadily implemented and birth figures accord with expectations, Wang noted that the likelihood of maternal complications has increased as the majority of potential mothers of a second child are over 35, which demands better public services to care for them.
The national ratio of maternal mortality in the first half of 2016 has increased 30.6 by percent over the same period of last year, after the country began to implement the two-child policy in January.
However, giving more incentives can also enhance prejudice against female employees, although this prejudice happens everywhere, Peng Xizhe, dean of the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Shanghai's Fudan University, told the Global Times.
"We need to understand if these incentives may be more burdensome to enterprises, which is the opposite of the general national development scheme, and if the incentives are provided by public funds like tax, whether it is fair for those who do not choose to have a second child," Peng noted.
While reiterating on Saturday that the relaxed policy has been steadily implemented and the figures accord with expectations, Wang also noted that the likelihood of maternal complications increases as the majority of the country's potential mothers of a second child are aged over 35, which demands better public services to care for them.
Wang said that NHFPC survey results indicate that three-fifths of families that refused to have a second child say it is because of financial pressure and lack of childcare. One-third of fulltime mothers were forced to quit their jobs to become stay-at-home moms, the same survey found.
These problems will be obstacles to implementing a more relaxed family planning policy, said Yuan Xin, a professor at Nankai University and expert on family planning.
He also noted that providing better workplace childcare and longer paternal leave could help alleviate gender prejudice by balancing out the caring roles.