Longer maternity leave should be the norm in Hong Kong, but don’t use public funds to offset employer costs
I am writing in response to the article, “Pay Hong Kong bosses the cost of extra maternity leave, former government adviser urges” (September 9).
I welcome the proposal for more paid maternity leave, as it provides financial support and job security for employees taking care of their newborns. But I am sceptical about the idea that the government should pay the cost to employers.
Government funds actually come from taxpayers. This case is not like that of health care, say, where the funds and resources expended on the system directly benefit all citizens.
Hong Kong is now very concerned about its ageing society, so increasing the birth rate and nurturing more labour and talent are matters of urgency. Although the rationale in asking the government to offset maternity leave pay, as a step towards alleviating Hong Kong’s ageing problem, may be sound, ultimately the benefit to society as a whole is not that great. It would be probably a bit unfair to use government funds in this way.
It is true that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong are now facing a lot of challenges, like the possible scrapping of the MPF offsetting mechanism, complaints over overtime and increases in minimum wage. It may be difficult for them to accommodate the extra weeks of maternity leave. The government could consider subsidising SMEs to a certain extent to help them through the hard times.
No employer would like to lose talented staff because of their gender and the possible need for paid maternity leave. So it is important to find a solution that is favourable and fair from the standpoint of both the employers and the government.
Jacky Tsoi, Tseung Kwan O