Babies wanted: Chinese province may offer a year of maternity leave

A man carries a child wearing a face mask during a government organised media tour at Tongji Hospital following the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on Sep 3, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters file

BEIJING - A landlocked province in northwest China, in an effort to encourage couples to have children, is looking to sharply increase the duration of paid maternity leave to nearly one full year, putting it on par with some developed economies in Europe.

Shaanxi is seeking public opinion on allowing an additional half a year of maternity leave on top of the current 168 days. That would put the province in the same league as European nations like Germany or Norway.

Shaanxi is also considering doubling the length of paternity leave to 30 days for couples looking to have a third child.

China announced in May that married couples may have up to three children, after data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world's most populous country.

The decision to let families have up to three children was initially met with doubts on whether it would make much difference. There were also calls for details on what supportive measures would be included.

Since then, 14 provinces including Shaanxi have either amended local family planning rules or are seeking public opinion to make amendments to laws to confer extra maternity or paternity leave.

Some have even created a new form of leave — "child-raising leave" — for couples with children aged 3 or below, state media reported on Wednesday (Nov 3).


READ ALSO: 'Have babies or go to jail': Chinese internet mocks official call for 3-child policy propaganda submissions

The southern island province of Hainan is offering one hour of child-raising leave each day, for parents with children under three.

The province of Heilongjiang even allows couples in border cities to have four children, due to the below-average birth rate in China's remote northeastern region.

In 2016, Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy and replaced it with a two-child limit to counter a rapidly aging population.

But that failed to boost births, partly due to the relatively high cost of raising children in urban China — a challenge that persists to this day.

China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with aging societies like Japan and Italy.

READ ALSO: China wants to incentivise people to have 3 kids, but young people don't even want to get married

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