India’s Maternity Benefit Bill, Good or Bad?

The day after International Women’s Day – March 9th, 2017 – the Indian Parliament passed The Maternity Benefit Bill. As government workers are already allowed 26 weeks of maternity leave, this bill increases it from 12 to 26 weeks for the private sector. It also requires companies to provide daycare services for their female employees and allow mothers to work from home.


Once you digest the impact of this bill, it is easy to see why it can be controversial.

Informal Sector. Although it brings private sector policy up to match the public sector – and a whopping 1.8 million women work in India’s private sector – almost 90% of the nation’s workforce is part of the informal economy. This includes farmers, street vendors, waste pickers, and domestic workers who will no receive any benefits from this legislation.

Financial Burden. Most of the opposition has come from companies unhappy with the daycare clause. The bill places the full financial burden of daycare provisions on the employer, rather than the typical split between the employer, government, and insurance companies.

Gender Bias. The Maternity Benefits Bill is focused on providing for mothers; it reinforcing the bias that childcare is solely a mother’s responsibility and ignores any need for paternity leave.

As we saw with the demonetization push, the Modi administration is keen on improving the country. Despite the good intentions behind the Maternity Benefits Bill, time will only tell how it works out.

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