India’s new maternity leave policy receiving high praise

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — In India, only 27 percent of women work, a deficit which costs the country an estimated 2.5 percentage points of gross domestic product per year. Last week, the nation’s government made an attempt to rectify this issue by doubling its federally mandated paid maternity leave from three months to six.

The new policy surpasses that of France, where maternity leave is 16 weeks, and easily bests the programs of Germany and Japan, who both provide 14 weeks of paid leave. If India was an OECD country it would rank sixth, alongside Israel and Poland, for longest paid leave. Only the U.K., Greece, Ireland, the Slovak Republic, and the Czech Republic offer new mothers more paid time off.

Here in the U.S., maternity leave is not guaranteed for any period of time. The Family Leave and Medical Act, passed in 1993, only ensures that eligible women don’t lose their jobs if they take up to 12 weeks off after having a child. However, the law does not guarantee financial compensation. The prospect of a federally mandated paid parental leave policy received unprecedented attention in last year’s presidential election with both candidates rolling out their own proposals for nation-wide measures.

Since his swearing-in, President Donald Trump has not officially introduced a plan, but he referenced paid leave for “parents” during his address to a joint session of Congress in late February, and First Daughter Ivanka Trump is reportedly pushing for Congressional support for a paid parental leave measure and child care tax benefits. Trump’s campaign proposal would provide mothers with six weeks of paid leave, which—if the measure passes—would put the U.S. in last place among OECD countries, tied with Australia and Portugal.

Despite the additional time, India’s new policy is not without its own flaws — it only applies to the nation’s 1.8 million female workers in so-called organized labor and only if their company employs 10 or more people. Another 16 million Indian women, who are either self-employed or work from home, will not be covered in this classification.

There’s also fear that the new policy will be a disincentive to hiring women because their potential leave is an additional expense and could be seen by employers as an inconvenience.

In the immediate, the hope is that the new policy will serve to do just the opposite, the goal of making Indian businesses more accommodating to women. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the bill a “landmark moment in our efforts towards women-led development.”

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