In the Philippines, the struggle is real when it comes to paid maternity leaves. Our current law only grants 60 to 78 days of leave for women who give birth via normal delivery and C-section, respectively.
That’s too short, especially when the current policy required by the International Labor Organization is a minimum of 98 days. And according to CNN Philippines, the country is “lagging behind in maternity leave duration. Vietnam provides between 120 to 180 days, while Singapore gives 112 days of maternity leave. Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand all provide a maternity leave period of 84 days.”
Currently, there is a proposed law that seeks to extend the period up to 120 days — the Expanded Maternity Leave Act. But while the bill was approved by the Senate in March 2017, its version in Congress is still awaiting approval. (According to the House of Representatives’ official website, it is marked as “unfinished business” and in a “period of interpellation.”)
We’ve listed down the reasons why parents (not just moms) need an extended maternity leave, but a new study adds another layer to its many benefits: longer maternity leaves may also lead to higher test scores when kids are older.
German researchers examined data collected after Austria extended its paid leave from one year to two years for children born after June 1990. They compared what happened to kids who stayed at home with their mom or dad one year or fewer versus kids who spent two years or fewer with their parents. They did this by looking at test results from the kids' that were taken 15 years later.
The study, published in The Economic Journal, showed noteworthy educational benefits for the child, but only after passing a certain requirement: children of highly educated, middle-class parents gained “large and significantly positive effects” in tests as teenagers if their parents stayed with them on a longer paid leave after they were born. Interestingly, the effect was stronger in boys.
On the other hand, for children whose parents had no college education, a longer maternity leave showed lower exam scores, but according to the authors, the effects were not clear. However, they did speculate that it “might be caused by reduced time and material resources,” assuming that these parents had kids who were born only a few years apart.
Apart from the need for longer maternity leaves, this research also suggests a need for education, especially sexual education and family planning.
But as the first study to show concrete results on how maternity leaves affect a child’s cognitive development, researchers were surprised to find that parental education strongly affected the outcome.
“The striking thing when we looked at individual groups was the significant difference that depended on the educational background of the mothers. These are robust results that stood up through all types of tests,” explains Natalia Danzer, deputy director of the Ifo center for labor and demographic economics and one of the study’s authors, in an interview with The Guardian.
Educational attainment aside, an extended maternity leave offers a lot of benefits not only for the child but for the mother as well. Apart from getting to spend more time with their little ones, mothers experience improved physical and mental health because they have more time to adjust to their new role.
As Senator Ralph Recto said, “On the macro level, longer maternity leaves do no harm to the economy. On the micro level, longer maternity leaves make both the baby and the mother healthy and happy.”
Here’s to hoping we see the Expanded Maternity Leave Act be passed into law this 2018!