The government should amend parental leave regulations to encourage fathers to take time off in the four weeks following a child’s birth, advocacy groups told a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
Representatives from groups including the Childcare Policy Alliance, the Birth Empowerment Alliance of Taiwan and the Awakening Foundation urged the government to allow fathers to receive 90 percent of their usual pay for time they take off work in the first month following a child’s birth.
Since 2002, the Act of Gender Equality in Employment (性別工作平等法) has allowed workers to take parental leave up until the child reaches the age of three, the Childcare Policy Alliance said, adding that in 2009, provisions were added to give employees who take unpaid parental leave an allowance equal to 60 percent of their usual pay for the first six months.
However, citing the 2020 Gender at a Glance report published by the Executive Yuan’s Department of Gender Equality, the Childcare Policy Alliance said that women still accounted for most of those who take parental leave.
In 2018, about 88,000 people were approved for their first period of parental leave allowance. Of those, more than 72,000, or about 82.3 percent, were women, the report showed.
While female participation in the labor force is increasing every year, male participation in parenting has not, Childcare Policy Alliance spokesman Wang Chao-ching (王兆慶) said.
This trend discourages women from having children, which in turn affects the birthrate, Wang said.
However, with policy intervention — such as policies for shorter, but better-paid parental leave — more men would be encouraged to apply for time off, he said.
The Childcare Policy Alliance said that the number of newborns in the nation this year could fall below 160,000.
A-tse (阿澤), a father who spoke at the news conference, said he used annual leave and unpaid personal leave to spend the first month after his child’s birth at home.
The high cost of postpartum care centers was among the reasons behind his decision, A-tse said.
While the time left him with beautiful memories, it took a lot of effort, as well as a pay cut, to take the month off, he said.
If the government were to give fathers more support to participate in the care of newborns, his experience would no longer be the exception, A-tse said.
In related news, a Child Welfare League Foundation survey showed that 61.4 percent of childless men aged 25 to 45 plan to have children.
The survey showed that 95.5 percent of men “agree” or “strongly agree” that fathers taking parental leave would benefit the mother’s mental health, while 76.1 percent “agree” or “strongly agree” that it would benefit the child’s mental health.
According to the survey, 82.5 percent of men “agree” or “strongly agree” that fathers who take parental leave would be more likely to continue a high level of participation in the care of their children.
The survey showed that 82.1 percent of fathers have never applied for unpaid parental leave.
The survey was conducted online from June 17 to 29, and collected 725 valid responses from men aged 25 to 45, the Child Welfare League Foundation said.
Nearly 56 percent of respondents had children, it said, adding that 36.8 percent were single and 59.7 percent were married.
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