Responding to questions about the government’s efforts in encouraging fathers to use paternity leave and the importance of shared parental responsibilities, Ms Sun stressed that it is important for society to embrace paternal involvement from the start.
The government has worked with community partners to strengthen family ties and resilience, with the aim of increasing marriage stability, as well as advocating the importance of shared parenting and household responsibilities between mothers and fathers, said Ms Sun.
In response to questions about the equalisation of parental leave, Ms Sun noted that the current provisions for maternity leave and paternity leave are differentiated to meet the respective needs of the parents.
“Maternity leave is provided for mothers to recuperate physically from childbirth and care for and bond with their children,” she added.
“Hence, it is longer than paternity leave, which allows for fathers to care for their wives and bond with their newborn child. This is also why maternity leave is longer than adoption leave.”
The government does not intend to change the current shared parental leave provisions, said Ms Sun.
On whether childcare leave can be increased, Ms Sun said that the difficulty in doing so was “not so much the cost to government” but the difficulties faced by employers and businesses when leave is made compulsory.
Based on the current increase in paid paternity leave and unpaid infant care leave, employers are already concerned that the increased leave provisions will adversely impact manpower costs and operations, she added.
Addressing questions on childcare sick leave, Ms Sun noted that the civil service currently provides childcare sick leave on a per-child basis, while 27 per cent of private companies in 2020 voluntarily provided additional paid childcare sick leave to employees.
Parents with more children will require more leave to take care of them if they fall ill, she acknowledged, encouraging private sector employers to consider providing childcare sick leave on a per-child basis.
“This can greatly alleviate parental stress from taking care of more children,” she added.