Maternity and Paternity Leave Around The World
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Think You’re Not Getting Enough Maternity Leave? This Is What Everyone Else In The World Gets

4 min read

From colleagues to friends, many people around me are either engaged to be married or are already married. And it won’t be long before they’re pregnant.

While I know we have it good in Singapore (did you know that we pay one of the lowest income tax in the world?), I can’t help but wonder: How do we fare against the rest of the world when it comes to maternity leave?

And since we’re on this topic:

  • How much maternity leave is a mother entitled to in Singapore?
  • Do we actually have a LOT of maternity and paternity leave?
  • Is it an international norm to have paid maternity and paternity leave?

Yeah… I’m a pretty curious kid.


TL;DR: Worldwide Maternity And Paternity Leave Comparison 

Here’s a quick comparison of the different maternity and paternity leaves around the world. You’ll be surprised how generous some countries are (spoiler alert: Singapore is not one of them).

CountryMaternity Leave/Paid?Paternity Leave/Paid?
Africa
Egypt 13 weeks: 75% your monthly salary paid by social insurance, 25% employerN.A
Americas
Canada 15 weeks: Yes, 55% paid of your monthly salaryN.A
Mexico 12 weeks: Yes, 100% of your monthly salary paid by social security 5 working days: Yes
Oceania
Australia 18 weeks: Yes, but at the national minimum wage. Paid by the government2 weeks (this leave is also eligible for same-sex partners): Yes, but at the national minimum wage. Paid by the government.
New Zealand 22 weeks: Yes, paid by the government. 2 weeks: No
Asia
Singapore 16 weeks: Yes, paid by employer and the government2 weeks: Yes, paid by the government
Malaysia~8 weeks: YesN.A
Hong Kong 10-14 weeks: Yes, 80% of your monthly salary paid by employer and government5 days: Yes, 80% of usual pay paid by employers
China14 weeks: Yes N.A
Japan14 weeks: Yes, paid by social insuranceAvailable: Yes, paid by social security
South Korea~13 weeks: Yes5 days: Yes, but only 3 days are paid
India26 weeks: YesN.A
Iraq14 weeks: YesN.A
Europe
United Kingdom39 weeks: Yes, paid by employer2 weeks: Yes, paid by employer
Germany 14 weeks: Yes N.A
Netherlands 16 weeks: Yes, paid by social security5 days: Yes
Denmark14 weeks: Yes 2 weeks: Yes
Sweden A total of 480 days of paid parental leave

Some key takeaways:

  • While the standard 12-week maternity leave in Singapore does not adhere to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) global maternity leave standard of 14 weeks
  • Most mothers will be able to qualify for an additional 4 weeks thanks to the Government-Paid Maternity Leave – this would effectively give them 16 weeks of maternity leave
  • There is no international standard for paternity leave: it’s not as common as maternity leave, especially when you look past Singapore’s shores
  • The Swedes really value the importance of bonding with their child during the initial years of life hence they have a whopping 480 days of parental leave

It is key to take note that there are differences between maternity, paternity, and parental leave.

Each country also has different nuances to how one can qualify for maternity, paternity, or parental leave.

For the sake of simple comparison, this article will not explore too much into parental leave and allow maternity and paternity leave to be the main focus as parental leave is a whole different topic with specific nuances unique to different countries. 

family


Maternity Leave And Paternity Leave In Singapore

ministry of manpower logo
Source: Ministry of Manpower

Maternity Leave In Singapore

Under the Employment Act, expecting mothers are entitled to 4 weeks of leave before the birth of her child and 8 weeks of leave after birth. That makes a total of 12 weeks worth of paid maternity leave.

Separately, the Government-Paid Maternity Leave scheme (GPML) also gives expecting mothers an additional 4 weeks of paid maternity leave, on top of the 12 weeks that they’re already entitled to.

Note: For women to be eligible for GPML, their expectant child must be a Singapore citizen, and she must also have served her employer for a continuous period of at least 3 months immediately before the birth of her child.

This would be a total of 16 weeks of paid maternity leave.

Paternity Leave In Singapore

Fathers in Singapore, relax. You aren’t left out.

As of 1st January 2017, under the Government-Paid Paternity Leave scheme (GPPL), fathers are entitled to 2 weeks of paid paternity leave.

If the mother is qualified for GPML, she can choose to share her 4 weeks with the father of her child. This leave will be recognised as shared parental leave, and this would allow the father to receive up to an additional 4 weeks of paid parental leave (note that it’s not paternity leave).

However, it is important to note that parental leave is only eligible for fathers who are married to the mother of their child.  

I believe that as Singaporeans, we’re pretty lucky to have paid parental leave. Granted, such schemes are probably all in the name of boosting our population rates in anticipation of a greying population.


How Does Maternity And Paternity Leave In Singapore Compare With The Rest Of The World?

For ease of reference, here’s Singapore’s maternity and paternity leave:

CountryMaternity Leave/Paid?Paternity Leave/Paid?
Singapore 16 weeks: Yes, paid by employer and the government. 2 weeks: Yes, paid by the government

And here’s the rest of the world’s (I’ve sorted them into continents):

Oceania 

Country Maternity Leave/Paid?Paternity Leave/Paid?
Australia 18 weeks: Yes, but at the national minimum wage. Paid by the government. 2 weeks (this leave is also eligible for same-sex partners): Yes, but at the national minimum wage. Paid by the government.
New Zealand 22 weeks: Yes, paid by the government. 2 weeks: No

Asia

Country Maternity Leave/Paid?Paternity Leave/Paid?
Singapore 16 weeks: Yes, paid by employer and the government. 2 weeks: Yes, paid by the government
Malaysia~8 weeks: YesN.A
Hong Kong 10-14 weeks: Yes, 80% of your monthly salary paid by employer and government. 5 days: Yes, 80% of usual pay paid by employers.
China14 weeks: Yes N.A
Japan14 weeks: Yes, paid by social insurance. Available: Yes, paid by social security.
South Korea~13 weeks: Yes5 days: Yes, but only 3 days are paid
India26 weeks: YesN.A
Iraq14 weeks: YesN.A

Europe 

CountryMaternity Leave/Paid?Paternity Leave/Paid?
United Kingdom39 weeks: Yes, paid by employer.2 weeks: Yes, paid by employer
Germany 14 weeks: Yes N.A
Netherlands 16 weeks: Yes, paid by social security. 5 days: Yes
Denmark14 weeks: Yes 2 weeks: Yes
Sweden A total of 480 days of paid parental leave

While gathering these figures, I discovered some interesting facts regarding maternity and paternity leave:

1. Pregnancy Leave

In Singapore, the leave that an expectant mother takes before the birth of her child is considered maternity leave.

But in the Netherlands, there is an additional pregnancy leave which women can take before their maternity leave. This pregnancy leave entitles women to take up to 6 weeks of pregnancy leave before the baby is due. Pretty cool huh?

2. Countries With Generous Maternity Leave Entitlement

These countries offer really, REALLY generous maternity leave entitlements as compared to Singapore’s paltry 16 weeks:

  • The United Kingdom – 39 weeks
  • India – 26 weeks
  • New Zealand – 22 weeks

3. Paternity Leave

Out of the 18 countries I listed, 7 countries do not have any legally mandated paternity leave.

Incidentally, the different countries compared either offer 2 weeks or 5 days paternity leave, with the exception of Sweden.

4. 480 Days Of Parental Leave!?

Sweden has an extremely fascinating parental leave scheme.

As a country known for having one of the highest gender equality standards in the world, it comes as no surprise that the Swedes do not differentiate between their maternity and paternity leave.

In fact, Sweden has a very generous 480 days of paid parental leave, which can be split equally between both parents.

latte dads
Source: Sweden.se

According to Business Insider, it is very common to see ‘latte dads’ in Sweden. ‘Latte dads’ are the social phenomenon in which fathers take the role as the main caregiver and become stay-at-home-dads. Or rather, cafe-frequenting-dads. While mothers are able to return to work.


Ending Thoughts

Now with the above information, one must wonder if all the money spent on maternity and paternity is worth it.

Yes, fundamentally these policies and schemes are to encourage and maintain population growth. And I definitely see the importance of maintaining the human race, incentivising couples to have children and the impact of bonding with a child during their initial moments after birth.

I also understand that raising a child in today’s society is an extremely huge responsibility.

On an economic level, this is the most logical thing to do.

But it brings up the debate of whether paying a couple to bring and raise a child into this world can guarantee that the child in question will be a functioning member of society.

If the child indeed positively contributes to society, then good for whoever paid for the maternity, paternity or parental leave. The chance they took in paying the parents to bond with their child paid off.

But if it doesn’t… *shrugs*

Do I personally believe in taking the huge responsibility of bringing children into this world?

No idea, I know that as an almost 22-year-old, I definitely have no plans of having any children any time soon.


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