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As many as 12 million Indian women could lose their jobs next year thanks to a new law mandating employers allow 26 weeks paid time off after giving birth, reports Foreign Policy.

Passed in March 2017, the Maternity Benefit Act bumps paid leave up from the previous 12 weeks to 26 weeks and makes day care centers mandatory for companies with more than 50 employees. But a new survey says that Indian employers may now be less likely to hire women at all, due to concerns about the demands imposed by the act.

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The policy therefore translates into a penalty for most women, who can be forced to quit their jobs midway through their career due to having a child at home. While women make up 51% of all new recruits in the tech industry, they stagnate at just 34% of all employees, according to Foreign Policy.

This is just the latest obstacle women in India face on the path to employment.

“Social norms often limit women’s opportunities to so-called traditional jobs, closely linked to typical ideas of what women can and cannot do,” Clement Chauvet, the chief of skills and business development at the United Nations Development Programme in India, told Foreign Policy.

Patriarchal values also restrict women’s physical movement in India.

A study by the Evidence for Policy Design Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School found that 79.9% of women in India needed permission from their husbands or other family members to even leave the house.

Read More: Why We Need a Development Approach That Prioritizes Gender Equality and Better Health

For various reasons, employers are more concerned about the cost implications the new “inclusive” Maternity Benefit Act entails, rather than the workers’ rights. Not only does an employee need to be paid for 26 weeks of no work, but a temporary substitute also needs to be brought in to cover the role in the interim, reports Business Insider India.

To truly impact the gender gap in the Indian labor market, the government needs to give employers an incentive to hire women, said Rituparna Chakraborty, in an interview with Times of India. That could include tax benefits, amnesty schemes, or additional benefits provided by the government.


Demand Equity

India's 26 Week Maternity Leave May Actually Be Bad for Women

By Joanna Prisco