In what is being touted as a “historic” move, India has more than doubled its paid maternity leave to 26 weeks from 12 weeks for working moms-to-be. The global average is 20 weeks, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
India is now ahead of several European and Asian nations when it comes to fully paid maternity leaves but trails behind the likes of Estonia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Japan.
The 26 weeks of paid leave, however, will be available to women for the first two children only, after which they will be entitled to just 12 weeks of paid leave.
In addition, commissioning and adopting mothers will now get three months of maternity leave, a first in India, as per the legislation.
The Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill 2016 had been pending in the Parliament for nearly nine months before it was passed on Thursday.
India’s Labour Minister termed it a “gift on International Women’s Day” and said that the legislation will have far reaching consequences both in terms of child care and female workforce participation in the country
At present, women occupy only 29 percent of India’s workforce — the lowest among the BRICS. China is at 64 percent, Brazil at 59 percent, Russia at 57 percent, and South Africa at 45 percent, according to World Bank data.
“Lack of flexibility in working conditions tends to dissuade women from joining the labor force as they turn to their domestic duties,” the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India said last year.
The bill also proposes that all organizations provide creche facilities for mothers during working hours and enable work-from-home whenever possible.
The decision is being hailed by Indian people, including corporate chiefs and leading politicians.
Some have even pointed to the fact that the U.S. lacks a maternity leave policy still. In fact, it is one of a handful of the 193 countries in the United Nations that does not offer paid parental leave.
Happy that Lok Sabha passes 26 weeks paid maternity leave to upto 2 children, more than the WHO recommended 24 weeks. 1/
— M Venkaiah Naidu (@MVenkaiahNaidu) March 10, 2017
Hold up. India, a highly sexist patriarchal country is going to have paid maternity leave but the U.S doesn’t.
— Not my President (@suhighness) March 9, 2017
Well done, India!