Vietnam plans to increase maternity leave to six months

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Maternity leave in Vietnam may be extended from the current four months to six months to ensure better care for mother and child, according to a proposal by drafters of the amended Labor Code.

Ha Dinh Bon, deputy director of the Legal Department under the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said the drafters were still discussing the issue.

"But we are favoring the first option (of extending it from four to six months)," he said Friday at a meeting held in Ho Chi Minh City to discuss the bill that is expected to be passed during a parliamentary session in May, 2012.

According to the proposal, to extend the maternity leave, an additional month will be added for every extra child born in a single birth. This means that a mother of twins would get seven months of maternity leave (6 plus 1) birth and one with triplets would get eight months and so on, Bon said.

Many participants at the meeting were in favor of the proposal to extend maternity leave, saying it would help ensure better health for the mothers an important part of the current workforce, and children the country's future.

It will also make it easier for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their children during the first six months as advised by the World Health Organization (WHO), they said.

The Vietnam General Confederation of Labor reported at the meeting that Vietnam Social Insurance only reimbursed 75 percent of maternity leave costs and is totally capable to using the rest, about VND6 trillion (US$288 million), if the leave is extended.

Around 1.5 million babies have been born each year in Vietnam a country of about 86 million people.

According to a July 12 report from the Ministry of Health, the percentage of Vietnamese mothers breastfeeding is much lower than the global average. In Vietnam, less than 20 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life while the world's average rate is one out of three.

Over the last decade the exclusive breastfeeding rate in Vietnam has decreased dramatically - from 34 percent in 1998 to 19 percent in 2010. That means only 17 women out of 100 in Vietnam are exclusively breastfeeding their babies for the critical first six months of life.

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