China is implementing policies aimed at increasing the fertility rate as it has been declining continuously for several years. On May 31, China eased the family planning policy further, allowing all couples to have up to three children.
Along with the declining fertility rate, China also has an aging population that is growing rapidly, which could affect the country’s productivity and sustainable development in the long run. As such, the government must take measures to improve prenatal care and treatment and ensure job and career security for women, in order to increase the fertility rate.
Let me explain why. I spoke with four entrepreneurs and HR managers recently, and all said they were reluctant to recruit women who were considering giving birth because the wages paid to workers during pregnancy and the postpartum period, c that is, when they are on maternity leave, are very high. One of the officials even said companies were unwilling to employ women who are planning to have a second child, let alone a third.
Today, many couples will not have children until they have sufficient financial resources for the maintenance and education of the child. Also, since women today have a stronger sense of independence, they don’t want to be just a housewife. As a result, they have to play multiple roles at home and in the workplace and therefore do not have time to raise a second or third child, some even refuse to have children.
I interviewed three women, and they all said that having a third child would definitely rob a woman of the time and energy needed to advance her career, as her employer might make her life more difficult by denying her the opportunities. promotions due. It is therefore not enough, they said, to speak out against discrimination against women in the workplace; we also need to ensure that employers who break the rules are penalized.
A law should be enacted to ensure that all sectors of society share the cost of childbirth. The 14th five-year plan (2021-25) proposes to mitigate the costs of childbirth and child rearing by improving maternity insurance, medical coverage and financial support for couples. In particular, maternity insurance has proven to be effective in promoting gender equality in the workplace.
But it is also important to adapt the maternity insurance policy so that it covers prenatal visits and maternity leave for new mothers, and paternity leave for fathers, and to remove the ceiling on maternity leave. annual expenditure on maternity insurance so that it can cover salaries paid to people hired, if any, to do the work of employees on maternity or paternity leave.
As for health insurance, it is necessary to facilitate the request for reimbursement of medical expenses for seniors nationwide. One of the reasons that many couples of childbearing age are reluctant to have more children is because they need their parents to care for young children. But many couples cannot ask their elderly parents to stay with them, because if the latter fall seriously ill away from their place of residence, they cannot get reimbursed for their medical expenses, which can sometimes be very high.
Financial support, in the form of grants, could provide some relief to new parents. Child and eldercare tax exemptions could also give new couples some monetary relief.
Furthermore, legislation alone cannot guarantee gender equality in the workplace. All sectors of society, including government, social groups and the media, should work together to promote gender equality across the country. It is only when women are guaranteed job security that they will be more willing to give birth.
The author is a professor at the Law School of China Women’s University. Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.