As male participation in parenting has not kept up with female participation in the workforce, the government should amend parental leave regulations, advocacy groups said on Tuesday.
The groups — including the Childcare Policy Alliance, the Birth Empowerment Alliance of Taiwan and the Awakening Foundation — cited studies showing that fewer men take parental leave, saying that this discourages women from having children. Legislation requiring employers to pay men on paternal leave 90 percent of their regular wages could curb this trend, they added. Other studies seem to back up the groups’ claims.
A study by Boston College’s Center for Work and Family found that men with an annual salary of US$100,000 or more were reluctant to take parental leave, but nearly all admitted that they would if they received full pay, a Feb. 19 article in the New York Times said.
California introduced legislation stipulating that employees on parental leave must receive 60 to 70 percent of their regular wages for up to six weeks, but the new law only induced a small increase in the number of men taking leave, the Times reported.
Men are most likely to take parental leave when they receive 70 percent or more of their salary, the article quoted researcher Brad Harrington as saying. At 90 percent of their salary, all of the men in his study would take parental leave, Harrington said, adding that men are concerned about earning enough to support their families, particularly while their wives are on leave to recover from giving birth.
Wages in Taiwan are low and while employers ease the pain of this with annual bonuses, men requesting parental leave might worry that their bonus could be affected, particularly when many Taiwanese are expected to work unpaid overtime and employees generally only leave the office after their bosses do.
There is still a gender gap in salaries, with a study released in March 2018 by the Ministry of Labor showing that women at the time earned 14 percent less than men.
The pay gap is significant enough that a male wage earner would need to continue receiving most of his regular salary if a couple expected to maintain their standard of living while he takes parental leave.
With the birthrate in Taiwan at record lows, the government knows that current parental leave regulations are a hurdle to promoting childbirth. In 2009, the Act of Gender Equality in Employment (性別工作平等法) was amended to allow those receiving unpaid parental leave from their employer in the first six months after a child’s birth to apply to the government for 60 percent of their wages.
On Dec. 4 last year, the Act of Assignment for Officers and Non-commissioned Officers of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍軍官士官任職條) was amended to allow those who have served in the military for at least six months to apply for parental leave.
However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wan Mei-ling (萬美玲) in March said that parental leave regulations in the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) have not been revised for 36 years and fall below international standards.
Parental leave is crucial for both parents. The government should ensure that both can be with a newborn, to bond with the child and share in the parenting workload — while not being unduly affected financially. It is in the government’s interest to address this issue, which has such a direct impact on increasing the nation’s birthrate.
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