HINDU SUMMARY-14th Nov 2017
On Maternity benefits
Benefits in amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, 2016:
- The provision of 26 weeks of paid maternity leave.
- The mandatory crèche facility.
- To improve infant mortality rate (34 per 1,000 live births)
- To improve maternal mortality rate (167 per 100,000 live births).
- The Labor Ministry placed the financial burden of implementing these measures on the employers.
- Facilitating the crèche facility is cost-intensive.
- The provisions deter employers from hiring or retaining pregnant women.
- A 2014 International Labor Organization report specifically cautions against making employers solely liable for the cost of maternity benefits.
- It advocates that maternity benefits should be provided either through compulsory social insurance or public funds.
- The Standing Committee on Labor in 2007 had suggested that the government should create a corpus fund to partially sponsor the costs to be incurred by the employer to provide maternity benefits.
- No government is ready to change this status quo though the state and society have gains from ensuring effective implementation of maternity benefits.
Illustration through various reports:
- One of the key goals of any maternity benefit policy is to facilitate breastfeeding by working mothers.
- Studies have shown that health benefits that accrue to both the mother and her child by breastfeeding are more than matched by economic returns at family, enterprise and national levels.
- A 2017 report released by the Global Breastfeeding Collective, led by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, has termed breastfeeding the “best investment in global health” generating $35 in global return for every dollar invested.
- A ‘Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, 2017’ released by the Collective shows that India spends an abysmal $0.15 (less than ₹10) per child to ensure that it meets the breastfeeding guidelines.
- The report suggests that as things stand, India is poised to lose an estimated $14 billion in its economy, or 0.70% of its Gross National Income, due to a high level of child mortality and growing number of deaths in women from cancers and Type II diabetes, directly attributable to inadequate breastfeeding.
- It is time for the government to shoulder the financial responsibility of providing maternity benefits.
- This could be implemented by enabling employers to seek reimbursement of the expenses incurred by them in this respect.
- The government must find innovative and cost-effective ways to ensure that working women are not forced to discontinue breastfeeding.
- A simple method is to express breast milk and store it to be given to their children while they are away.
- The only provision that needs to be provided by employers to facilitate this would be a clean and private pumping room.
- A corpus fund needs to be created by the government to meet the Maternity Benefit requirements.