April 29, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we debate whether paternity leaves should be on par with maternity leaves. We also look at Delhi’s decision to upgrade its forests, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Let’s talk Paternity Leaves: How long is too long?
When it comes to childcare, India has a lot to offer the world. Our maternity benefits alone leave countries like Germany and the US back in the dust. Companies in India are not just expected to cover new mothers for 26 weeks but also provide a child-friendly workplace for those returning. Paternity leaves are where things get a little shaky.
What is surprising is that the issues around paternity leave are not really coming from the government. The Central government actually offers its male employees 15 days of paternity leave. While that may not sound like a lot, it definitely is not. Some even say that long paternity leaves defeat the purpose of the maternal benefit entirely.
So let’s talk about paternity leaves: are they a right or a privilege?
Paternity leave in India has only been exclusively mentioned in the All India Services (Leave) Rules, 1955 and the Central Civil Services Rules, 1972. These provide up to 15 days of leave before the birth of a child or up to 6 months from the delivery date. Private companies were never obliged to offer up any benefits to fathers and still aren’t.
In 2017, Rajeev Satav, an MP from Maharashtra, proposed a private member’s bill entitled “The Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017”. Like several of these drafts, this bill was unfortunately put aside for more “timely” work, but it did bring up several provisions worth looking into. A lot did happen since, but our official status on paternity leaves remained on the murkier side.
According to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report called “Maternity and Paternity at Work – Law and Practice Across the World”, about 79 countries provide paternity leave benefits to male employees. More than 66 countries have shared parental leave policies, which removes the gender conundrum and only focuses on childcare.
Most recently, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal took time off for the birth of his second child, and once again, the pot got stirred. Several said that the announcement of his decision could push for more people-friendly practices in the tech industry. But our scope of discussion doesn’t just end at tech.
In January 2021, the paternity leave debate took on an ugly tone after Virat Kohli left his team in Australia to be with his daughter. Indian Twitter had a field day with this; while some praised his move, the rest called him a traitor for skipping “national duty”. Either way, paternity leaves were in the news, and people had opinions.
Soon, several private Indian companies like Meesho, Flipkart, Razorpay, Twilio and Okcredit started announcing their paternity leave benefits. Some even offered up to 30 weeks off to new fathers – a trend that has been gaining momentum among younger corporates. But is it worth it?
VIEW: Cracking the glass ceiling
On a podcast episode, host and comedian Joe Rogan posed a question that sums up this whole issue. While talking about US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s 6 month-long paid paternity leave, Rogan asked, “Isn’t [parental leave] supposed to be for the person who gave birth?” This is the logic running the show when parental benefits are brought up. In a heteronormative sense, mothers do the work, and fathers reap the benefits. The problem with this line of thought is that it sets a horrible precedent for the labour force as a whole.
In Sweden, the Parental Leave Act is a gender-neutral piece of legislation that offers families where both parents take parental leaves more months off than those where only one does. The goal there was more than just providing for biological parents. It covers all types of families, including adoptive and non-heteronormative ones. Of course, in India, the non-heteronormative family might have a lot more hurdles to get through before we bring up child-rearing, but it is a conversation worth having.
Here’s the thing, the workplace comes with its own prejudices. In a society that is still largely patriarchal, the role of the primary caregiver is often put on women. This immediately puts the onus on women for the upkeep of everything that is considered “personal” and “of the home”. Thus, further alienating women in the workplace – something second-wave feminists warned us about back in the 60s. Author Joeli Brearly, in her book Pregnant Then Screwed, even points out how scientifically unfounded the argument that women are natural caregivers is.
And it doesn’t just stop there! In 2010, a study in Sweden showed that for every month of paternity leave taken by a man, a woman’s earnings rise by 7%. That’s right, an inclusive and equal parental leave can even out the pay gap between the sexes. As per the Monster Salary Index of 2019, women in India generally earned 19% less than their male counterparts. During the pandemic, women received fewer promotions as well. A part of this can be attributed to the “motherhood penalty” that women are subject to, i.e. the biases that work against mothers in the workplace.
All of this goes away or, at least, gets significantly weaker when men at work choose to be seen as working fathers. Caregiving in any capacity is a human job that transcends gender and biology. It’s about time the workplace understood that too.
COUNTERVIEW: What’s the point?
When the conversation around paternity leaves reached the Parliament in 2016, MP Maneka Gandhi reportedly said, “Men in India do not utilise their existing leaves in order to take care of their child. If men gave me one iota of hope by taking sick leave for child care, then yes, we can think of mooting a proposal for paternity leave.” While her words might be harsh, the leave-taking portion of it is actually backed by statistical evidence. More often than not, even when paternity leaves are offered to men, they barely use them.
Since 2007, Japan has been offering its male employees 30 weeks of paid paternity leave. When it was introduced, only 1.6% of men opted for it for reasons that can only be described as “work FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out). In 2019, Japan’s paternity leave takers rose 5 times, but that is still around 8% of eligible men availing the leave. Even in South Korea, which offers up to 53 weeks of paternity leave, most men just don’t opt for it. Even in the UK, where 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of paid leave are offered to both parents, only about 1% of the eligible population took it.
Finally, we come to all the biological arguments. In 2018, Norway amended its leave quota, which made a 10 to 15-week parental leave mandatory for new parents. The Norwegian Midwife’s Association were quick to warn people of the dangers of a mother’s absence in a child’s development. For the father, however, there is no medical consensus regarding the same. There was also talk of this limiting a family’s autonomy in how they choose to organise their lives. It should be up to the parents to decide how they would like to divide the allotted weeks as per their needs.
As of now, most men just use their casual and sick leaves to tend to matters at home. While this might not be the most ideal way of going about things, the sheer lack of figures supporting paternity leaves makes companies move away from providing men with it. The loose empirical evidence and complexities in the workforce don’t help either. Thus, from a policy maker’s point of view, it really just comes down to the unfortunately nihilistic question in the heading: what’s the point?
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Equal maternity and paternity leaves are required.
b) Equal maternity and paternity leaves are not required.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Other PSU Sales Are Postponed, So Why Should Top Brand LIC Play on Losing Wicket?
For the Left:
Democracy Dies in Wokeness: How Elon Musk Brought Left-wing Authoritarians Out of Closet
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Upgrading forests (Delhi) – The Delhi government has chosen to upgrade four existing city forests to world-class standards. Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai announced the project with its theme being “Closer to nature with family”. The four chosen are Mitraon City forest, Alipur city forest, Garhi Mandu city forest, and Jaunapur forest. In total, they cover more than 280 acres spread across the city’s four corners.
Why it matters: Delhi has the largest per capita forest cover at 9.6 square metres, among all the big cities in India. For 2021, a report by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) showed Delhi had a forest and tree cover of 342 sq km. In 2013, Delhi forest cover was 20%, which increased to 23.1% the last year. The state wants to increase overall green cover to 25% by 2023.
Need for Godavari tribunal (Andhra Pradesh) – The Andhra Pradesh government reiterated its demand for a Godavari river tribunal. It wanted the tribunal to make allocations in the available water for all river basin states. It was against other states including Telangana for new irrigation projects without taking available resources into consideration. The state wants the Godavari River Management Board (GMRB) to first assess the water availability before announcing new projects.
Why it matters: Officials from the state argued that Telangana launched three lift irrigation projects without approvals from the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the state government. Telangana has asked for 45 tmc of water to be allocated from the Krishna river since the water was diverted by Andhra Pradesh through the Pattiseema project on the Godavari river.
Farm loan waivers (Jharkhand) – In the last fiscal, the state government waived off ₹1,529.01 crores worth of farm loans to provide financial relief to farmers holding short-term agricultural loans. The loan waiver scheme is being implemented for more than 900 farmers every day. Till March 2022, more than 3 lakh farmers have benefitted. Nisha Oraon, Jharkhand agriculture director, said one of the government’s priorities is the welfare of farmers.
Why it matters: Last June, the state waived off ₹980 crores of farm loans to more than 2.4 lakh farmers. In December 2020, the state cabinet approved a farm loan waiver scheme with a ₹2,000 crores budget. The total number of farmers in the state is estimated to be between 22 and 32 lakhs. The agriculture department also launched the Kisan Call Centre through which it resolves any pending issues with farmers.
Hike in PUC charges (Maharashtra) – The state transport department hiked the pollution under control (PUC) charges for different categories of vehicles. The rate for two-wheelers is now ₹50 compared to the earlier ₹35. For three-wheelers running on petrol, it’s ₹100 compared to the earlier ₹70. Four-wheelers running on CNG and petrol will now pay ₹125 compared to the earlier ₹90. PUC Centre owners aren’t happy with the revised charges as they’ve been demanding a price hike for a long time. They wanted higher prices.
Why it matters: The state has around 2,400 PUC centres. This is the first price hike in eleven years. An official from the All-Maharashtra Pollution Under Control Centres Owners’ Association said they have been struggling to sustain themselves since the online system came into effect in 2020 and increased their expenses.
Objections to border MoU (Meghalaya) – Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said individuals, not parties in the ruling coalition, demanded revisions in the MoU signed with Assam to end the border dispute. He said the government will come forward to explain the components of the agreement to those who have objected. He said other partners in the coalition government are on board with objections coming only from leaders in regional parties.
Why it matters: On March 29, Meghalaya and Assam signed an MoU to end their five-decade-old border dispute at six of the twelve contested locations. The two states share an 884.9 km border. A draft resolution of the agreement was signed in January. It came a year after Home Minister Amit Shah urged all the states in the region to resolve their boundary disputes by August 15, 2022.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹42,862 crores – The profit for LIC from the sale of investments in the first nine months of the fiscal year 2022. Most of it was equity assets as it gears up for its IPO on May 2.