India to increase maternity leave entitlement

The Indian government has announced plans to extend statutory paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks.

Pending parliamentary approval, the new policy means India will rank among the 16 most generous countries for maternity leave.

Women in public-sector jobs in India have been entitled to six months’ paid maternity leave since 2008. The new legislation will extend this right to workers in the private sector.

The longer leave entitlement is partly designed to address infant malnutrition by encouraging breastfeeding. Announcing the policy, India’s Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, said that: “We had written to the Labour Ministry asking that the maternity leave be extended taking into account the six months of breastfeeding that is required post-childbirth. The Labour Ministry has agreed to increase it to six-and-a-half months.”

The Ministry for Women and Child Development has indicated it will push for a further extension to eight months’ leave for workers in the public and private sectors.

But there are concerns that more generous maternity rights could increase already prevalent discrimination against women, as BBC News reports.

Meanwhile, IZA World of Labor author Harry Holzer and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution have recently written for The Washington Post about the maternity leave debate in the US. They argue that: “Cities, states and the federal government should provide paid sick and family leave for all workers. But it can and should be done in a fiscally responsible manner that does not place undue burdens on the workers themselves or on their employers.” The US is currently the only developed economy that does not guarantee any paid maternity leave.

Daniela Del Boca has written for IZA World of Labor about childcare choices and child development, and the role that parental leave plays. Noting that, especially when children are young, parental care is the most valuable input, she argues that: “generous parental leave policies as well as policies that promote affordable and high-quality formal childcare are likely to have a positive impact on children’s abilities and outcomes in the near and long term.”

Related article:
Childcare choices and child development by Daniela del Boca
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