Lin Yong, a National People’s Congress (NPC) deputy from Guangdong Province, has submitted a motion for shared parental leave during this year’s meeting of the NPC. Mr. Yong claims that from his perspective the implementation of the universal two-child policy worsens gender inequality, restricts the careers of women and burdens families that have two kids. Couples should therefore both take parental leave, and it should be compulsory for men to share in the responsibility of parenting.
As China’s birth rate has decreased over the past years, the previous one-child policy was replaced by a universal two-child policy in 2015 in order to address the problem of the population’s ageing. The NPC deputy argues however that this policy hurts the employment and careers of women.
First of all the two-child policy makes employers less likely to hire women, as they might take leave during pregnancy for examinations and foetal care, and maternity leave lasts more than six months. As a result, many companies tend to hire men instead. Secondly, for women who are employed the two-child policy is an obstacle for promotion. Most of the women who can afford to have two kids have had some experience in the workplace, and for them it is a dilemma whether to deliver a baby or get promoted. What’s more, the lack of supporting policies also affects the harmony of the two-child family and the healthy growth of children.
Lin Yong suggests that China can learn from Norway and make it compulsory for fathers to take parental leave. This way pregnancy will have less of a negative impact on women’s career, making them more willing to have children. This will help the two-child policy to work and decrease gender discrimination. Besides family education will improve, and children will grow better both mentally and physically. It is suggested that men could take parental leave for more than 42 days, during which they would get fully paid.
The motion has provoked heated discussion among Chinese netizens; most of them express strong support. Many argue that getting pregnant and bringing up children stresses women and causes gender inequality in the workplace. Parental leave for men could relieve such stress and reduce the discrimination women suffer because of maternity leave. There is still concern however about whether the men will truly take care of their families and share responsibilities with their spouses, rather than simply take advantage of the additional leave.