Will compulsory paternity leave encourage more childbirths?

By Li Fangfang
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Beijing Review, January 29, 2021
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The Shanghai Municipal Women's Federation recently put forward a proposal to make paternity leave mandatory for fathers, to encourage families to have children.

In Shanghai, young couples are unwilling to have a second child for many reasons.

According to the federation's proposal, the original 10-day paternity leave should be extended to no less than 30 days, so that fathers can share more of the burden in caring for their newborns. The organization also suggests offering more generous family-based tax breaks, among other favorable policies, to alleviate the financial load on families with two children.

Gong Pandong (cnr.cn): With this type of mandatory paternity leave, we expect to see more males getting actively involved in child care, so they will also experience the hardships of raising a child, and can share the mother's burden, so that the latter faces less discrimination in her career.

However, it's hard to tell to what extent such a well-intended proposal will boost young couples' interest in welcoming more babies into their families. The willingness to have babies is a matter of economic conditions, the parents' career paths, family environment, etc. Mostly, couples of child-bearing age worry about the difficulties of raising a child, not actually having a second child. Take children's schooling for example. Parents may even have to spend huge amounts on a house to live in an area with prestigious schools.

A 30-day paternity leave alone will not wipe out all these concerns, but it will play a positive role. If their worries about difficulties in raising a child are essentially eliminated, young couples will naturally feel more inclined to have a second child.

Qian Mo (Nanfang Metropolis Daily): If men can enjoy this leave, they'll be more active in taking care of children, learning from the very process of raising children. Evidence shows that female psychological growth increases when taking care of children. However, as men are less involved in the process, they often lose the opportunity to grow on a par with the mothers in terms of child-caring skills and psychological development.

Furthermore, as many families with two children complain that the biggest hurdle is how to take good care of young children, paternity leave may help to relieve this pressure, though it cannot offer a fundamental solution. Together with other favorable policies, this type of leave can play a big role in encouraging the nation's fertility rate.

Meanwhile, the cost of giving men paternity leave cannot be forced onto the organization or company they work for. The government, too, should offer these entities some form of subsidies to cushion the cost. Otherwise, despite the leave policy, in the end it may be these men who will have to bear the financial costs.

Hu Jun (Guangzhou Daily): Because they bear the children, women face discrimination on the job market. When men are also granted a relatively extended paternity leave, the disadvantages caused by maternity leave will be balanced. In this sense, paternity leave can help protect women's right to employment. Traditionally, fathers tend to be absent from their babies' development. If they can have more time off work during their babies' first days in this world, it will be helpful to their children's overall growth.

At the same time, there must be explicit laws and regulations to protect this right, which employers should strictly follow. Raising a child is not only a matter of individual families, but something for which entire society should bear some responsibility. 

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