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India’s arguably generous maternity law benefits merely 1% of its women

Avik Chakravorty
India’s arguably generous maternity law benefits merely 1% of its women
The Maternity Laws of India are arguably generous and archaic benefiting a meagre 1% of its women. Nonetheless there are signs of progress elsewhere where maternity leaves are much longer in comparison with India's.

In India, working mothers-to-be are far better-of than most of their peers in the developed world, however, the country’s maternity laws are archaic. A year or two ago, the country passed the Maternity (Amendment) Bill aimed at working women and their right to paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks which is the world’s third-highest.

There is a no-win situation nonetheless — the law is meant for companies with a headcount of at least ten employees which is just a minuscule proportion of the working women of India.This limitation in maternity benefits is an upshot of the desire of the elite of India to merely mimic policies that are both purposed and executed in the West, without any sort of fine-tuning suiting Indian conditions.

 The maternity bill is an exemplary bill – phantom legislation that passes laws that don't have and in all probability will not be as effective as required. Progress or that one is doing something is an illusion, and is given, but the reality is something else. There is an ideological dimension to the law which is a part and parcel of what the Indian elite believes is good, just, and prestigious in communities transcending boundaries.

Symbol of progress

Canada and Norway are the only two countries, with GDPs per capita of 27 and 47 times higher than India’s, respectively, provide protracted maternity leaves in comparison with India. The moot point, however, isn’t the perception of generosity, but how the law is applied.

It was estimated that the vast majority of Indian women shun work. While on the one hand the unorganized sector is comprised of over 80% of women working for companies with an employee headcount of less than ten. On the other hand, the organized sector comprises of 16% women workers, who do informal work, where the maternity law is not applicable.

A more realistic assumption would be that a meagre 20% of the females work in the organized sector, then the law is potentially applicable to simply 1.3% of the workforce, or not even 1% of all females.Considering these off-the-cuff calculations, the unanswered question is why would India deplete its invaluable resources on ratifying a law that is applicable to a minuscule section of its growing population.

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