Chairman Words


China: a state hostile to families ?




China has been much criticized over the years for its family policies: penalties for having a second child, handicaps in schooling for children anywhere outside of their home “hukou” territory, medical facilities, and on the list goes.



Let us begin with the USA, the world’s richest country and best-known democracy. Federal law entitles a mother to 84 days of maternity leave, albeit at her own expense, during which her job is kept open for her return. The underlying view is the protection of the individual and the parents’ right and duty to look after themselves in the way they choose.

Germany, Europe’s richest, goes a little further with 98 days, and a lot further with full pay, plus a multitude of benefits aimed at supporting the baby’s integration into the family. This pays off in the long term: Germany experiences lower family trauma and separation than it otherwise would, family psychotherapists tell us.

Each society must make its own choices between generosity and affordability, between individualism and solidarity, between personal choice and social regulation.

How does today’s China deal with the arrival of a baby? The mother’s job is protected for the same 98 days as the German mother’s. She is paid throughout at her average prior year’s pay. Upon her return to work, for the child’s first year she is allowed an hour off every day to feed the baby. 

What’s the catch? For the families, none. For the employers, there is extra cost, for they are the ones expected to fund the maternity leave: not the state, as is the case in Europe. Fortunately, there is an insurance fund to spread the load; it also plays a vital part in depersonalizing that load, and hence in good human relations.



Ryder goes further than this: mothers get 178 days off, and their pay is at the latest rate, so they benefit from their latest raise.

What about the father? Recognizing the benefits of linking him emotionally with the child and also of the facts of urban life in modern China, where grandparents may not be within easy reach to support those first vulnerable weeks, the father is granted two paid weeks too. During this time, he can support his wife in the exhausting routine of child-care. During this time, the natural process of bonding with the newborn will take hold. And during this time, he will recognize his wife’s hard work and come to respect it more solidly.


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