| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

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

In an effort to encourage couples to have children, a landlocked province in northwest China is considering extending paid maternity leave to nearly one year, putting it on pace with several wealthy countries in Europe.

Shaanxi wants to know what the public thinks about adding a half-year to the present 168-day maternity leave. This would place the province on par with European nations such as Germany and 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.

The southern island province of Hainan is offering one hour of child-raising leave each day, for parents with children under 3.

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.

  • Reuters