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ILO says Viet Nam in need of paternity leave policy

Update: May, 16/2014 - 09:10
According to ILO, if lawmakers approve the draft, Vietnamese male workers will be entitled to take leave for five to seven full paid days depending on whether their wives had a normal delivery or underwent operation. — Photo dantri

HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam offers no paternity leave whereas nearly half of the countries worldwide encourage involvement of fathers around childbirth, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The organisation said that by 2013, at least 78 out of 167 countries with available data provided some form of leave that fathers can use around the birth of a child. That showed great advancement in comparison to 1994 when paternity leave existed in only 40 of 141 countries with available data.

In addition, leave provisions for fathers are most common in developed economies, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

"Recognition of men's right to parenthood, as well as their responsibility to share unpaid care and household work, will help to break down traditional social attitudes and promote greater gender equality at work and at home," noted Gyorgy Sziraczki, director of ILO Viet Nam.

The draft revised Law on Social Insurance, however, opens up hope for fathers, as it will introduce paternity leave in Viet Nam for the first time. The draft will be discussed at the upcoming National Assembly meeting later this month.

According to ILO, if lawmakers approve the draft, Vietnamese male workers will be entitled to take leave for five to seven full paid days depending on whether their wives had a normal delivery or underwent operation.

The draft also has provision for adoption leave, which enables workers who adopt a child of under six months of age to take leave until the child attains six months. The policy is already included in the national laws in many countries.

Khuat Thi Hai Oanh, executive director of the Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiatives, noted that she completely supported the policy of allowing paternity leave, adding that it was in line with the best practices at international level.

"Paternity leave will officially acknowledge the roles of men in taking care of their wives and their newborns, and practically provides them the opportunity to realize such roles."

Oanh also noted that this will reduce the stereotype that taking care of the infant is the responsibility and skills exclusively of women; empower men, making them more confident fathers; strengthen the bond between fathers and children; and eventually contribute to increase gender equality.

"I will, however, like to see more days are given for paternity leave [rather than only five or seven days as specified in the draft revised law]", she added.

As for the possible challenge to make the draft revised law possible, Oanh stated that she did not see any real challenge, as most men have already taken some days off during childbirth, but they had to exhaust their annual leave or unpaid leave.

"Business or productivity will not be affected much, but socially, a significant impact will be felt."

With the 2012 Labour Code increasing maternity leave from four to six months, it is among the longest in Asia where only five countries meet or exceed the 14-week ILO standard. Mongolia allows 120 days of leave, Bangladesh 16 weeks, Singapore 16 weeks and China 14 weeks.

By far, according to ILO, 58 per cent of the countries and territories now finance maternity leave cash benefits through social security, whereas one-quarter stipulate that payment during leave should be covered entirely by the employer. — VNS

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