Bulgarian Women Spend 20 Years More in Employment Compared to Three Decades Ago - Expert
104 ECONOMY - MATERNITY LEAVE - BULGARIA - EXPERT
Bulgarian Women Spend
20 Years More in Employment
Compared to Three Decades Ago - Expert
Sofia, December 11 (BTA) - In the last two to three decades, the retirement age for Bulgarian women has increased by ten years and, when you add another ten years for the postponement of their first childbirth, it turns out that they spend by 20 years more in employment. This deprives Bulgarian women of maternity and their children, of maternal presence and care, Assoc. Prof. Krassimira Kostadinova of the National Centre for Public Health and Analyses says in a BTA interview.
Asked whether employers' proposal for a shorter paid maternity leave complies with the national priorities, Assoc. Prof. Kostadinova says that this proposal goes against what has been set in national strategies, programmes, policies, and good practices. She lists a series of arguments in favour of the current two-year paid maternity leave, noting that the issue should be viewed in the context of more global problems, such as demographic development, child health, working conditions, work-life balance, updating social legislation, and providing services for children and families.
According to Assoc. Prof. Kostadinova, the most important argument in favour are Bulgaria's negative demographic indicators, such as the drop in birth rate and the population's negative rate of natural increase. The last decade has also seen a stable upward trend in the average age at which women have their first child, particularly well-educated women (at over 33 years of age). She cites data showing that in 2016, women aged over 40 gave birth to 1,974 children, while a year later this number grew to 2,108 children, 50.7 per cent of which were firstborn. The stable trend of women postponing childbirth is accompanied by reproductive problems and limiting the number of children in the family to one, she says.
Statistics also show that the number of abortions per 1,000 live births in Bulgaria is two-fold higher than the EU average.
The last years have also seen a constantly rising number of single-parent families, and the patriarchal model (with grandparents and other family members helping with childcare) is falling apart. This makes it necessary that the parent, mostly the mother, is given more time for raising the children, the expert argues.
According to her, the debate on maternity leave should not be simplified by reducing it to a labour law dispute caused by workforce shortage, but be viewed as a problem related to national values and priorities, such as children, family, health, and social benefits concerning children's well-being. The type and length of the maternity leave should be determined on the basis of the national traditions, priorities and needs, and be compared to the economically advanced European countries only when other things are being equal, such as wages, women's life expectancy, working conditions, and standard of living.
She adds that it is not recommended to separate children from their mother, including to send them to a childcare facility, before the age of two. This is due to the higher susceptibility to infectious diseases of children aged under two, as well as to the strong negative effect of maternal care deficit on child health at this age.
Despite the fact that child mortality in Bulgaria has dropped in the last five years (to 6.4 promiles in 2017), it remains two-fold higher than the EU average (3.69 promiles), Assoc. Prof. Kostadinova says. The number of underweight newborns and prematurely born babies is growing (from 8.9 per cent in 2005 to 9.7 per cent in 2016), and so is the frequency of such children falling ill.
According to Assoc. Prof. Kostanidova, the fact that a working mother will have to take sick leaves more often, makes it pointless to shorten the paid maternity leave for the sake of the mother returning to work sooner.