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Tibet mulls offering women a full year of paid maternity leave

Women in Tibet could get a year of paid maternity leave under a draft family planning law, a move that would put the region on par with Sweden in terms of how much time off mothers are given to care for newborns.

Details have yet to be officially released and it remains unclear where the draft law is in the legislative process.

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The Legal Daily reported on Wednesday that the Standing Committee of the Tibetan People’s Congress had already passed the law, but an official from the national health agency told Thepaper.cn the draft was undergoing only its first reading.

“This is the first time that Tibet will adopt a population and family planning law. [The draft law] needs improvement,” the unidentified official from the National Health and Family Planning Commission was quoted as saying.

“This is the first time that Tibet will adopt population and family planning law. [The draft law] needs improvement,” the unidentified official was quoted as saying, adding that it required further deliberation before being officially passed.

But if passed, the law would give Tibet some of the most expansive maternity leave in the world, far beyond the 10 weeks of leave that Hong Kong grants to its new mothers.

New Tibetan fathers would also have 30 days of paid leave under the new law, which is also among the longest periods of paternity leave in the world.

Such programmes are a way for governments to encourage people to have children, although they often face resistance from employers who want less time off for their workers.

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Tibet is grappling with a lower fertility rate, with the most recent national census in 2010 showing the region’s fertility rate for women – or the average number of children who would be born to a woman in her child-bearing years – was 1.5, well below the national average of 1.8.

Tibet also has a large number of people living in rural areas who may not necessarily have employers who can grant them paid leave. Rural Tibetans account for more than 76 per cent of the region’s 3.18 million people, and they are permitted to have as many children as they want.

Urban Tibetans and ethnic minorities can have two children, the same number as Han Chinese following the scrapping of the one-child policy by the central government this year.

The mainland abandoned the one-child policy in the face of demographic strain created by an ageing population and shrinking labour pool, which carry enormous economic implications.

Provinces across the mainland have amended their family-planning laws accordingly, granting couples additional paid leave to encourage more births.

Presently, women in Guangdong enjoy the longest maternity leave on the mainland – 208 days if they have a caesarean section during delivery. Most other provinces grant maternity leave of 128, 158 or 180 days.

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Some regions also offer generous paternity leave plans. Gansu, Henan and Yunnan provinces are the envy of fathers across the country with 30 days of legal paternity leave. Inner Mongolia, Guangxi and Ningxia provide 25 days of leave. Most other provinces grant 15 days of paternity leave, while Tianjin and Shandong rank at the bottom with just seven days.

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Globally, the Swedes enjoy the longest parental leave – 480 days shared between the mother and father. Parents in Australia share up to 52 weeks, while those in Britain have 50 weeks. Japanese mothers are entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave, while Singaporean mothers get 16 weeks.