[EDITORIALS]A boost for female workersThe government and the Uri Party have agreed on improving maternity leave payment policies, and that is good news for female workers.
It will ease the concerns of working women and financial burdens as they wonder how pregnancy will impact their careers.
The country’s low birth rate and that fact younger people are having fewer children is worrisome, but the attention has been focused on the responsibility of women. The government and the Uri Party’s decision is a step forward.
A female worker is entitled to 90 days of maternity leave. Under the current system, the employer has been paying for 60 days of the leave with the employment insurance system covering the rest. It contributed to discrimination against female job applicants.
The government will substitute payments for small companies starting next year and by 2008 cover the costs for large companies as well.
It will help eliminate the stigma of pregnancy by covering all maternity leave benefits by the state-run employment insurance and government money.
The measure is also expected to improve the labor rights of female workers on temporary contracts, which comprise about 70 percent of the women in the workforce by reducing the number that are laid off due to pregnancy.
The bills will also provide benefits for female workers who suffer miscarriages. The physical and emotional suffering from a miscarriage is as serious as childbirth, but society has been ignoring the problems associated with poor working environments and the lack of a welfare system.
Starting next year, female workers who suffer miscarriages will be entitled to a 45-day paid leave financed by employment insurance. They will be able to enjoy their statutory maternity rights.
A country is only as strong as its population, and Korea’s birth rate has been falling rapidly as society ages. Korea has many shortcomings in its programs to encourage child birth. The government has only belatedly showed its willingness to revise the laws.
Some are showing concerns about financial pressures on the employment insurance system by increased spending, but that will have to be accepted as a national priority. This is only a beginning. We expect the government to expand its child care policies.