Mon, May 09, 2016 - Page 3 News List

DPP proposes amendments to gender equality act

FOCUS ON FETUS:The proposed amendment aims to make pregnant women the focus of accompanying maternity leave, instead of marriage being the key criterion

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday announced plans to amend the Act of Gender Equality in Employment (性別工作平等法) to extend the statutory five-day accompanying maternity leave to the partners of expectant unwed women.

According to DPP Legislator Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬), who drew up the proposed amendment to Article 15 of the act along with DPP lawmakers Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) and Lu Sun-ling (呂孫綾), about 8,000 single women fall pregnant each year in Taiwan, accounting for about 4 percent to 5 percent of all pregnancies.

“If the current trend in Europe is any indication, the number of unwed mothers in Taiwan is likely to rise,” Cheng said on Facebook yesterday, which was Mother’s Day.

Cheng said the nation’s fertility policy has long been out of sync with reality and only factors in children born in wedlock, making accompanying maternity leave unattainable for single mothers who are more socially disadvantaged.

Such a policy contradicts the spirit of the system of accompanying leave and the problem has received little attention in recent years, Cheng said, adding that the government’s political inertia is evident from its social welfare policy primarily targeting wealthier citizens.

Article 15 of the Act of Gender Equality in Employment stipulates that when an employee’s legal spouse is in labor, their employer must grant them five days off with pay as paternity leave.

If the DPP’s proposed amendment is passed, an unmarried expectant woman in labor would be able to designate someone as their caretaker, whose employer would have to allow them a maximum of five days accompanying maternity leave over the span of a year.

“Over the past decade, Taiwan’s highest birthrate was recorded in 2012, when 229,481 babies were born ... but the number was only half of the record high of 400,000 newborns annually,” the proposed amendment reads.

Attributing the nation’s dwindling fertility rate to low marriage rates and married women’s disinclination to have children, the bill cites a 2008 survey conducted by the Health Promotion Administration as proof that the nation’s high abortion rate is another key hindrance to birthrate growth.

The poll found that as many as 77.2 percent of female respondents aged between 20 and 49 have experienced unplanned pregnancy and 25 percent have undergone an abortion.

“The design of accompanying maternity leave ought not to set marriage as the eligibility criterion. It should regard pregnant women as the main body,” it said.

The proposed amendment has garnered the signatures of 10 lawmakers, including nine DPP legislators — Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀), Yu Wan-ju (余宛如), Chen Man-li (陳曼麗), Liu Shyh-fang (劉世芳), Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴), Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱), Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋), Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) and Hung Chun-yi (洪宗熠) — as well as New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸). It needs to garner five more signatures to reach the threshold for sending a bill to parliament.

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