Eunice Yung’s chance to raise childcare awareness

The pregnant lawmaker has an opportunity to highlight the needs of Hong Kong’s working women. And carrying her baby into Legco to cast her vote on the maternity leave extension will make a great statement

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 September, 2018, 9:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 September, 2018, 6:38am

Now pregnant, lawmaker Eunice Yung Hoi-yan has a great opportunity to raise awareness about the maternity and childcare needs of working women. She should exploit it to the fullest – for all working parents in Hong Kong.

Granted, she is in uncharted territory, at least in Hong Kong; there seems to be no record of a sitting pregnant legislative councillor in local history. But she can take a leaf from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was the first world leader to become pregnant since the late prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto gave birth to a daughter in 1990.

As more women take the reins of power in both the political and corporate world, such occurrences should become more common.

Setting a good example, Ardern’s husband has taken over primary childcare responsibilities. But as she said, parents can’t do it alone; “it takes a village” to raise children. Civilised societies – and that means bosses and corporations – must share the social responsibility to make childcare easier, accessible and not so costly to young families.

First sitting legislator to give birth wants to vote during maternity leave

In Hong Kong, the government is planning to extend paid maternity leave from 10 to 14 weeks, which is more in line with the average of the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But an intense lobbying effort is already under way by the business community and its friends in Legco to make the government subsidise those four extra weeks. A member of the government-friendly New People’s Party, Yung has said she supports legislation extending maternity leave but her position about government subsidy is unclear. Since it’s possible lawmakers may be called upon to vote on the leave extension while she is away on maternity leave, Yung wants Legco to change its rule book to allow voting by proxy.

Oh please, Eunice, new mothers are not invalids, unless they suffer from serious complications. Carry your baby into Legco to cast your vote. That will make a great statement and a photo-op. What more can a politician ask for? And it’s even for a good cause.

As for public subsidy, it’s clear worker welfare is the primary responsibility of employers. Large and medium-sized companies should be able to absorb the costs incurred from four extra weeks of maternity leave. It’s mainly small firms operating on an essential skeletal staff that will struggle. Only these should be considered for subsidies.