Don’t reverse humane policy
Local media this week has voiced strong objections to a provision in the draft amendments to the Labor Code, which seeks to abolish the prevailing regulation that female workers taking care of babies aged less than 12 months are given 60 minutes off a day. Such a provision, says the media, does more harm than good for female workers and society as a whole.
At a recent conference in Hanoi, the draft regulation was tentatively let fly to fathom the public reactions, and the general feedback in the aftermath is overwhelmingly negative.
Ha Dinh Bon, head of the Legislation Department of the labor ministry, who heads a team to make the draft, explains that in a recent seminar reviewing the implementation of the Labor Code, many enterprises have suggested dropping the prevailing rule on the 60-minute paid break per day for female workers.
“Many enterprises have proposed lifting the regulation because it causes production cost to rise and make work arrangements difficult… The Government is scheduled to present the draft to the National Assembly in April,” Bon is quoted by Vnexpress as saying.
He explains that the draft rule is meant to harmonize the work relationship between the employer and the employee. Bon says employers always want to cut costs and raise profits, while employees want to work less, according to Tien Phong newspaper.
However, Bon furthers that he finds the prevailing regulation more agreeable as it protects the benefits of female workers and is in line with the advancement of society. The draft includes such a change due to requests from enterprises, he explains.
Many officials and even entrepreneurs have swiftly rejected the amended provision.
Dang Quang Dieu, head of the Policy Department of the Vietnam General Labor Confederation, reasons in Vnexpress that the daily break of 60 minutes is meant for female workers to breastfeed their babies, as Vietnam encourages breastfeeding until babies are two years old. “I really don’t understand why the prevailing rule is to be abolished,” he is quoted as saying.
Pham Xuan Hong, chairman of the HCMC Association of Garment-Textile-Embroidery-Knitting, asserts it is necessary to allow female workers a 60-minute break because when both the husband and the wife are workers, they do not have enough time to take care of their child. “At issue is how to raise productivity rather than lengthening working hours. The morale and health of workers are also very important, and if they have no time to take care of their babies, the efficiency of their work may be hampered,” he says on the news website.
Similarly, Dai Doan Ket stresses that giving female workers 60 minutes a day to breastfeed their babies is a humane policy which must be upheld. A 60-minute break a day not only helps relieve the young mother of the worries that her baby may be hungry, but also helps make the baby more resilient to diseases, which in turn will encourage the mother to work more effectively.
Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, clarifies that the 60-minute break is no priority for female workers, but such a regulation is suitable to the role of women in taking care of children. Therefore, “if the rule is scrapped, it would adversely affect the health of both women and children,” she is quoted in the news site VTV.vn.
When challenged by reporters over the draft, even a top leader of the labor ministry admits that the regulation in the current law should stand.
Deputy labor minister Dao Hong Lan says that the regulation on the 60-minute break is fine. “60 minutes is really very valuable for female workers to take care of their kids,” she says in Vnexpress.
The deputy minister adds that the current regulation also relates to the right of children to breastfeeding, which will help them have good health in the future. She explains the draft is not the final one, and feedback from experts and the general public will be heeded by the ministry before it is presented to the Government and the National Assembly.
Strong objections from the local media as well as the public are understandable as the time for contributing opinions to the draft is running out given the law-making schedule at the next National Assembly sitting. The prevailing regulation on the 60-minute break for female workers looks most likely to be retained in the new amended law, but, from the very beginning, attempts to abolish the rule should have never been introduced into the draft. It is simply because the draft rule goes against what is accepted as humane.
“The drafting team of the labor ministry has accepted employers’ suggestion to include in the draft law a new provision to scrap the 60-minute break. The team has taken heed to employers’ proposal, but the question is whether they have ever listened to female workers,” says Phap Luat.