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It's time for legally mandated paternity leave: expert
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Chinese experts told a seminar Thursday that it's necessary for men to have the legal right to paid paternity leave, since more Chinese men recognize their responsibilities and demands for nursing.

"Currently, gender equality in the country's laws is mainly focused on public affairs. No laws have specified men's rights for paternity leave," said Liu Cheng, researcher from the Women's Studies Center under the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Liu spoke during a seminar on paternity leave. Liu suggested such rights be written into the Social Insurance Law, which is still under formulation.

In a 2007 survey by the center, 92 percent of the 840 respondents said men had a right to time off for the arrival of a baby. Only 2.5 percent said labor was purely a "women's matter".

The survey included government officials, staff at foreign-invested companies, workers from private companies and many other occupations from cities including Beijing, Xi'an and Nanjing. Among the respondents, 59 percent were male.

"It indicates that people have developed a positive attitude toward men's involvement" in the arrival of children, said Li Huiying, director of the Women's Studies Center.

"Women's capacity to bear children is not a drawback to their work. Rather, it's rather a kind of reproduction of the work force, and thus a contribution to society," said Li.

So far, 36 countries, mostly in Europe, have leave for both parents. In China, 26 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions offer time off for men. The duration of such holidays ranges from three days to a month.

"Such holidays only exist in regional law, and only as an addition to the country's birth control policy," said Liu Cheng. "It's not independent, and it doesn't really reflect gender equality in family responsibilities.

"If such rights were written into the Social Insurance Law, it'd be the first law in the country to encourage men's involvement in such private matters, " she added.

(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2009)

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