Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Maternity leave plan already stirring debate

BIRTH SUBSIDY A proposal to give new mothers and fathers a NT$13,500 monthly subsidy is far from becoming law, but has already drawn many skeptical responses

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The council has apparently taken no action against the other 61.3 percent of firms, she said.

Yu also referred to statistics from the discriminatory employment review committee of the Taipei City Government. Among the 151 complaints filed between 1995 and 2003, 68.21 percent dealt with the pregnancy-related cases.

"The government's policy of establishing a comprehensive community childcare network has not been adequately enforced, but it does not dare ask the companies to comply as they fear that corporations would just do business somewhere else," Yu said.

The lack of safeguard mechanisms to protect employment rights has also prevented many employees from planning for pregnancy or asking for parental leave, Yu said.

According to CLA statistics, only 24 percent of the companies with more than 30 staff members have employees who have filed applications for parental leave.

The foundation suggested that Taiwan could learn from the example of Sweden. In Sweden, both males and females are eligible to apply for parental leave, and are given 480 days to this end. The government reimburses each applicant approximately 80 percent of their original salary for 390 days.

For the rest of their leave days, each person is reimbursed 60 kronas (NT$240) per day, and low-income families get an additional 90 kronas. Swedish law also mandates that fathers must apply for at least two months of compensation for parental leave, and mothers must do the same.

The flexibility the Swedish policy offers has motivated many Swedish men to take a break from their careers. According to statistics from the Council of Europe, in 2002, 75 percent of Swedish men -- including many male politicians -- took parental leave.

Lukewarm response

Meanwhile, Taiwanese couples have not embraced the CLA's proposals wholeheartedly. Lee Ying-te (李銀德) and his wife Lisa are expecting their first child this summer.

While Lee said that he is willing to take parental leave, the small subsidy he will receive gives him little incentive to do so. Lee added that he earned NT$40,000 a month, and that his compensation would have to be at least 70 percent of that income to sustain his family.

"It doesn't matter how long parental leave will take, as long as there is a sufficient subsidy," Lee said.

Samuel Wang and his wife Deborah have already had two children. Deborah asked for two years of maternity leave, one for each child. Since she is a teacher, she received a monthly payment of NT$5,000 while on maternity leave from a teachers' support group, which was partially funded by the Taipei City Government. But those benefits were halted due to funding problems.

"Funding is an important issue if the government want to continue executing the policy," Deborah said.

She said that while the law gives women the right to take two years of maternity leave, most women do not to wait that long to re-enter the workforce.

"The workplace changes quickly, and every day," she said. "A lot of women would have problems readjusting after leaving their jobs for two years."

However, Deborah did acknowledge that the government was making an effort to involve more males in the parenting process through the CLA's proposal.

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