Chinese single mums, denied benefits, press for change

TAIPEI: Sarah Gao had a busy job. As the pinnacle of a 500 million yuan (US$76.8 million) funding fund, she was continuously flying throughout China on enterprise journeys. Then she came upon she was pregnant.

Her being pregnant, along with her then-boyfriend, was unplanned. But Gao, who was 40, thought she wouldn’t have any extra probabilities, and determined to maintain the newborn.

What she didn’t realise was how that call would result in a virtually four-year authorized battle for her maternity advantages.

Her protracted battle highlights the implications that Chinese ladies face after they elevate a toddler exterior of a wedding. The overwhelming majority are unable to entry public advantages, starting from paid maternity go away to prenatal examination protection, as a result of their standing is in a authorized gray zone. Some might even face fines.

Gao and another single moms wish to change this. They are a part of a small group, organised by Advocates for Diverse Family Network, that petitioned the Legal Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress at its lately concluded annual assembly. They don’t count on fast motion, however they hope their wants will likely be mirrored within the legislative agenda sooner or later.

China’s inhabitants is quickly ageing, and the federal government is keen to advertise greater birthrates, enjoyable restrictive household planning legal guidelines in 2015 so that every household can have two children. Yet, the legal guidelines haven’t modified as shortly on the subject of single dad and mom.

READ: These are the ‘leftover men’ of China, who just want to get married

There are not any official statistics on the variety of single-parent households in China, however a National Health Commission survey in 2014 estimated that there could be practically 20 million single moms by 2020.

Many of them come from divorce, with divorce charges within the nation practically doubling from 2009 to 2018, based on the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Following a tough being pregnant, Gao gave delivery to her daughter in November 2016. She went again to work after seven months of sick go away and maternity go away.

Throughout her sick go away, her firm, KunYuan Asset Management, paid her the naked minimal: Roughly 1,000 yuan (US$153) a month, an enormous drop from her ordinary month-to-month wage of 30,000 yuan (US$4,606). The firm didn’t pay her throughout maternity go away.

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak China Daily Life

A person carrying a face masks to assist curb the unfold of COVID-19 cycles previous a household taking a relaxation exterior the drum tower, a vacationer spot in Beijing, Nov 29, 2020. (Photo: AP/Andy Wong)

Gao pressed the corporate for full wage and maternity go away advantages, a part of which might come from the social insurance coverage to which corporations contribute by regulation.

In Beijing, the place Gao lives, an worker can apply for these public advantages solely by means of their firm. But Gao’s firm refused to use for her, saying her supplies had been incomplete as a result of she lacked a wedding licence.

When she pressured the problem, the corporate requested her to resign. Gao refused to give up at first, however finally she was fired. However, the corporate refused to problem her a proper letter that might acknowledge her departure, making it tough for her to discover a new job.

The firm didn’t reply to requests for remark by way of electronic mail, and telephone calls to the pinnacle workplace in Beijing went unanswered.

Gao is suing the corporate for 1 million yuan (US$153,645) in again pay, along with her maternity go away fee. She has misplaced twice in court docket since July 2017 and is interesting for a 3rd time.

Each time, the court docket mentioned that “Gao’s unmarried status while giving birth is not in line with national policy, and therefore lacked the legal basis for her to receive a salary during maternity leave”.

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China’s household planning coverage doesn’t explicitly forbid single ladies to have kids, however says that “the state encourages a husband and wife to have two children”.

Nurses hold a baby at a birth centre in Beijing

Nurses maintain a child at a delivery centre in Beijing, China. (File photograph: AFP/Greg Baker)


At the native stage, this has been interpreted to imply that solely a married couple can have kids. This turns into an impediment when attempting to entry advantages, equivalent to reimbursement for prenatal visits and wage throughout being pregnant go away.

Many native governments require a wedding allow throughout this course of, mentioned Dong Xiaoying, the founding father of Advocates for Diverse Family Network.

There have been some modifications. In Guangdong province and Shanghai, governments have modified laws so {that a} girl doesn’t have to supply proof of marriage earlier than getting advantages.

READ: Chinese court orders man to pay ex-wife for housework in landmark ruling

In January, Shanghai quietly applied a brand new regulation that eliminated the necessity for a wedding allow to use for advantages, serving to ladies like Zou Xiaoqi, a single mom turned activist in Shanghai.

Zou sued a Shanghai authorities company in 2017 to get her maternity go away wage and the general public insurance coverage advantages. After years of media interviews, court docket appearances and lobbying metropolis politicians, Zou obtained her advantages earlier this month.

China Single Moms

Zou Xiaoqi, a single mom turned activist, holds her son throughout a go to to a museum in Shanghai in June 2019. (Photo: Zou Xiaoqi by way of AP)

The legal guidelines should change, Zou believes, because the cultural stigma remains to be very intense. Only lately did she discover out that the mom of her son’s playmate was additionally a single mom. They had recognized one another for 5 months earlier than the girl revealed that element.

“Its direct impact is that there are some single mums already facing great difficulties who fall into more difficult positions,” Zou mentioned.

“The indirect impact is that some people are afraid to speak up, and some are afraid to face society and will face a lot of suppression. People who don’t want to marry end up getting married and enter into an unhappy marriage.”

Single mums and activists are hoping {that a} change on the nationwide stage can easy out the state of affairs for single moms in the remainder of the nation, like Gao.

A Guangdong delegate to the National People’s Congress mentioned in February that the household planning regulation may have some clarifications to handle the wants of single moms, acknowledging their authorized quandary.

“I just want to know in the national policy, as a single parent, as an unmarried woman, do I have the right to give birth?” Gao mentioned.


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