The issue of paid family care leave should be addressed immediately, as the nation’s birth rate has dropped to the lowest in the world, a situation that is threatening the nation’s security, Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said yesterday.
Outlining a plan to push for a legal revision that would allow workers to get the same paid family care as their civil servant counterparts are entitled to, Wang said at the Legislative Yuan that paid family care leave is also an issue close to the hearts of the nation’s women’s rights groups.
Wang said the council is mulling an amendment to the Gender Employment Equality Act (性別工作平等法) that would treat workers in a way that was “not inferior” to civil servants in terms of paid family care leave.
“Currently, civil servants get five days of paid family care leave, and a proposed revision of the law would move in that direction for other sectors too,” she said at a press conference hosted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus.
At present, Wang said, workers can take family care leave in accordance with the Gender Employment Equality Act to take care of their children if the government announces the closure of schools, but not offices, because of typhoons.
The family care leave is counted as personal leave and can be taken by workers for up to seven days a year, but without pay.
On concerns that the working class might not necessarily benefit from such a revision and that unscrupulous employers might skirt the law to save costs, Wang took the maternity leave allowance program as an example, explaining that the program was opposed by both employers and employees when it was first put forth by the council.
Nevertheless, after the maternity leave allowance revision was passed into law, more than 70,000 people have applied for maternity leave allowances since May 2009, with the government paying out more than NT$6 billion (US$207 million) in such allowances, she said.
On employers’ concerns that the paid family care leave policy would increase their overheads, Wang said the council has calculated the program would cost the entire business and industrial sector no more than NT$2 billion a year.
She added that if young couples in Taiwan choose not to have children because the financial burden of caring for them is too high, the country will soon have no workforce.
Under the proposed amendment, Wang said, workers could file complaints with the council if they are refused paid family care leave by their employers.
On whether elderly family members aged over 65 should be included in the program as requiring care, Wang said this needed to be discussed by the council, labor affairs experts and employers, as well as employee representatives.
The paid family care leave issue surfaced when city and county governments announced the closure of schools, but not offices, on Monday in anticipation of the arrival of Typhoon Nanmadol, leaving some working parents unwilling to lose a day’s pay to look after their children.
At a separate setting yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said his party supports equal treatment for workers and public servants.
“However, it takes a comprehensive set of planning for any political party to change the law,” he said, adding that “the last thing we would like to see is President Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九)] submitting the idea to appeal to voters ahead the presidential election.”