India’s lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that mandates 26 weeks of paid maternity leave for women, upping the benefit from its previous 12-week level, according to media reports.
The bill passed India’s upper chamber of Parliment, the Rajya Sabha, in August. It passed the lower house, the Lok Sabha, Thursday, after four hours of debate, much of it focused on paternal benefits.
“This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated the International Women’s Day,” said Labor Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, according to NDTV.
The new provisions only apply to a woman’s first two children. After that, the benefit is 12 weeks. They also only apply to women working in what is considered the organized sector of India’s economy, which accounts for about 10 percent of the country’s workers.
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The vast majority of workers in India are considered unorganized, working for themselves or small business.
The government is already providing 26 weeks to its employees, according to NDTV.
A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center found that the United States was one of 41 developed countries that did not provide any paid parental leave mandated by the federal government. The U.S. is one of a handful of the 193 countries in the United Nations that does not offer paid paternal leave, NPR reported in 2016. The U.S. is joined by New Guinea, Suriname and a few South Pacific island nations.
“We urgently need to catch up in the United States. For a high-income country, we have some of the worst outcomes for our infants. We have some of the highest rates of infant mortality. We have huge health inequalities,” Jody Heymann, founding director of the World Policy Analysis Center at UCLA, told NPR.
Some states, including California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, have state-mandated paid-leave plans, according to Pew.
The Family and Medical Leave Act covers eligible employees for 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.