Not long ago, Hsieh Yen-yau (謝炎堯), a retired professor of internal medicine, published an opinion piece in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) commenting on a “female-doctor-friendly workplace.”
Hsieh said he was concerned about an amendment to the guidelines for resident physicians’ working rights and working hours that was passed to improve working conditions for female doctors.
They might lose opportunities to learn if they do not have to work night shifts due to these protections and could face medical disputes due to poor skills, he said.
Advanced countries do not have rules similar to the amendment passed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, he said, adding that the US and European countries have never had maternity protection.
He also said that the rules in Taiwan are too generous to women.
These claims are extremely absurd and seriously flawed.
The German law on maternity protection dates to 1878. At the time, the law strictly prohibited women from factory work within three weeks of giving birth.
After more than a century of adjustment and amendments, Germany’s Maternity Protection Act fully protects women’s rights during pregnancy and after birth, and even their willingness to work and flexibility of hours. With an amendment last year, it now applies to all women in the workplace and extends to vocational or university students, as well as volunteer soldiers.
German law bans an employer from firing women during pregnancy and within four months after birth. The ban on dismissal also applies to women who miscarry after the 12th week of pregnancy. An employer must also inform authorities to facilitate reviews when hiring an expectant mother. In the past, pregnant or breastfeeding women were prohibited from working on Sundays and public holidays, or after 8pm.
The prohibition on work lasted until last year’s amendment, as Germany relaxed the act to allow pregnant or breastfeeding women to work on Sundays and public holidays, or at night between 8pm and 10pm with their consent, as well as approval from a doctor and the government authority.
However, they are still prohibited from working after 10pm.
Under the act, the maternity leave period extends from six weeks before birth to eight weeks after, and can be extended to 12 weeks after birth if twins or more children are born, or the child is disabled or has a rare disease. During this period, the woman is not allowed to work, and in case of a premature birth, the woman can be granted six weeks of leave to make up for the missed pre-birth leave.
Moreover, in this period, women can receive allowances from their employer and the German health insurance bureau. The bureau offers a daily allowance of up to 13 euros (US$14.60), or about 390 euros per month. If the mother’s monthly salary is higher than 390 euros, the employer pays the difference between the allowance and the average salary for the last three months they worked.
The employer also pays for breastfeeding and rest time after birth, which cannot be deducted from the salary.
If a company is unable to provide a friendly breastfeeding space or work environment and therefore cannot continue to employ a new mother, it must still pay her full salary until the child is one year old.
To deal with low birthrates, North American and European nations have made subsidies a national policy. Parents in Germany have 14 months during which the German government pays 67 percent of their salaries.
While Germany offers more than the equivalent of NT$500,000 per year for couples who have a child, in Taiwan, a retired doctor complains that female doctors missing night shifts through pregnancy could lead to insufficient training.
In Germany, female doctors have substantial parental leave rights, while breastfeeding on a night shift is not a problem.
Female doctors are among society’s elite. They should be encouraged if they want to have children, because they will produce a healthy and smart next generation. How can Hsieh judge women, claiming that they might lose the opportunity to learn because they need to rest before and after giving birth?
A career lasts for decades. If taking maternity leave from a night shift job continues to be seen as a privilege, it will be impossible to reverse Taiwan’s low birthrate.
Liou Uie-liang is the author of a book about what Taiwan can learn from Germany.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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