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Parenting change

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 15 June 2019 04:34

Father’s Day also falls on the same day this year in addition to Poson, which is perhaps an opportune moment to consider how important the role played by fathers is and how it is essential to encourage both parents to play an equal role in shouldering responsibilities of caregiving. 

In Sri Lanka only about 34% of women are in the formal workforce, largely because they are the primary caregivers, taking care of both children and the elderly. There is a clear economic and social need for men to be more involved in domestic responsibilities so that both men and women can have equitable opportunities. 

In Sri Lanka, maternity leave is given but paternity leave is still overlooked by many companies, or it is given but only for a few days. There are many changes that need to be done, as pointed out by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other stakeholders, to ensure that responsibilities can be shared better with the involvement of the private sector.  

For example, it would be a positive step to give at least six months of paid parental leave that is available for both parents. In Sri Lanka, since 2018, every employed woman has been entitled to 84 paid working days of maternity leave and the Government has now provided additional tax benefits to businesses to support maternity leave. However, there are very limited provisions for fathers to receive paternity leave, with government employees entitled to just three working days, and private sector paternity leave decided on a company by company basis. Even the most progressive of the private companies follow the public sector and rarely offer more days of paternity leave. 

In Sri Lanka, mothers in the public sector are entitled to 60 minutes of breastfeeding breaks for a child’s first six months. Within the private sector, female employees are entitled to two 30- 60 minute breastfeeding breaks per day for the child’s first year. This is an impressive commitment from the Government. However, there is no obligation for employers in Sri Lanka to provide breastfeeding facilities for parents onsite.

Affordable, accessible and quality childcare services are another massively overlooked need. In Sri Lanka, the ‘National Guidelines for Child Day Care Centres’ was introduced in 2017, with a ‘National Policy for Child Day Care Centres’ currently under development and designed to increase investment in this area. 

Further, the 2019 Budget sets out plans for concessionary loans for large business to provide childcare facilities. However, at present, most working parents have no or limited access to quality childcare services, limiting their ability to enter or return to the workforce.

Globally, child grants, including cash transfers, are being implemented to support the most vulnerable and ensure they can access crucial services for children. Evidence shows that cash transfers play an important role in keeping families out of poverty, helping to reduce parental stress and enhance family well-being. In Sri Lanka, while most services for children are provided by the State free of charge, child grants should be explored as a way of addressing the economic and social disparities faced by families across the country. Obviously these need to be well-targeted and well-administered to be effective. 

Parenting is the most important job in the world, and it is important that policies are upgraded to meet the demands of modern life. 

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