Not even a year ago, having an unapproved second child under China’s three-decade-old one-child policy would have incurred hefty fines of tens of or even hundreds of thousands of yuan. But, today,
the government is so desperate to encourage couples to make babies that fathers are being granted generous paid leave.
Faced with a gloomy future of a rapidly ageing society and shrinking labour pool, Beijing announced late last year that all couples could now have two children, following a partial relaxation in 2012.
Since January, provinces have been amending their own regulations on how many days of paid leave parents are entitled to.
Last month Guangdong stipulated that fathers could enjoy 15 days of paternity leave. The announcement in the prosperous southern province brings to 29 out of 32 provinces or municipalities directly under central government control to formally stipulate paternal leave.
Gansu, Yunnan and Henan provinces have become the envy of the country with 30 days of legal paternity leave, followed by 25 days in Inner Mongolia, Guangxi and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Most provinces opt for 15 days of paternity leave while Tianjin and Shandong province ranked bottom with only seven days only.
Nonetheless, fathers are thrilled by the change.
Michael Zhang, an office worker in Beijing, had only three days off when his son was born six years ago. Since his daughter was born in January, he is entitled to 15 days of paid leave any time before she turns one.
“I didn’t really need time off when my wife gave birth because it happened to be during public holidays and we had already hired help,” said Zhang. “I won’t really be spending the days changing diapers or feeding my daughter, but the idea of having days off are wonderful. We can use it for family trip.”
But even for provinces that have even more generous leave, being able to take it is not guaranteed for everyone.
The husband of Tang Niuniu, a public servant in Yibin, Sichuan was given 30 days of leave when the province only allows 20 to other workers. He took the leave to help his wife, but needed to go back work from time to time when he workplace needed him.
Li Lu in Luoyang, Henan, had never head about the 30 days of paternity leave. After checking with the human resources department at her employer, a construction machinery company, she was told there was no paternity leave at all.
But fathers, she discovered, were “welcome to apply for non-paid leave for up to a week”.