PUTRAJAYA: While there is a perception that long maternity leave will encourage women to abuse it by having more children so they can go on long leave, the country’s birth rate shows otherwise.
“Our country’s birth rate is very low, ” said Deputy Women, Family and Community Development minister Hannah Yeoh.
Malaysia’s birth rate has dropped from 4.9 in the 1970s to 1.9 today.
According to a study by the National Population and Family Development Board, ideally a couple will want four children but this is hindered by factors such as economic stability and concerns on who will care for their children, she added.
Yeoh was speaking to reporters after opening the Women and Family Convention on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Yeoh said the proposed 90-day maternity leave had become a hot topic among Malaysians.
She said having the mother at home for three months would benefit the child, as the mother would be able to fully breastfeed throughout the duration of her maternity leave.“When babies have access to their mother’s milk, we spend less on healthcare as a nation, ” she said.
Yeoh also believes that initiatives announced in Budget 2020 would encourage women to return to work and contribute more to the nation’s economy and progress.“The challenge is the implementation and also making sure that employers cooperate, ” she said.
Women’s labour force participation rate was at 55.2% in 2018 compared to men (80.4%).
Under Budget 2020, women aged 30 to 50 who have stopped working are given a RM500 monthly incentive for two years for them to return to work, while employers will get RM300 as a hiring incentive.
These women will also have their income tax exemption extended until 2023. Maternity leave will be increased from 60 to 90 days for the private sector beginning 2021.
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