Friday, August 26, 2005

Maternity Leave

In Romania, maternity leave is two years. (It’s actually the only visible sign that Romania has ever had a government supposedly dedicated to working people). Two whole years! It’s brilliant. During the first three months off your employer has to pay you some percentage of your salary, and after that the state takes over. The 21 months of state payment of this maternity salary is done at a flat rate (currently standing at 9,000,000 old Lei – about €250 a month). Now this may sound like an absolute pittance, but for the sticks it is a pretty good deal. (I imagine for people in Bucharest it really is a pittance and amounts to an incentive to get back to work as soon as possible). Two women in Erika’s office are currently off on such leave and are earning close to what they were earning before. For Erika (and thus for us) it will be a pay cut, but that’s because she’s the boss. For most people it really isn’t one and for many it’s actually a pay raise. Probably one condition of EU accession is they get rid of such a progressive and socially liberal policy.

9 comments:

MS said...

"It’s actually the only visible sign that Romania has ever had a government supposedly dedicated to working people"

Actually, this generous maternity leave has been introduced in 1997 by the Ciorbea government and it was something like 85% from the last salary, it was trimmed down by the PSD government to a fixed rate (which is good for those with low salaries but bad for those with high salaries). Another thing, it can be claimed by any of the parents (but not by both simultaneously) so paternity leave would be more appropriate name for it. Under communism the maternity leave was short (three month I believe), but with bribes at doctors one can go from one medical leave to another medical leave for quite a long way.

Anonymous said...

Dude, WTF? EU accession hasn't made a bit of difference to this policy. And most EU countries have maternity leave policies. Romania's is generous, but not exceedingly so.

What might make a difference is the government not being able to afford it any more, because they can't get the damn deficit down and/or because the IMF insists on stringency measures. But that'll have jack to do with the EU.

And as the previous poster noted, this was something developed by the much-maligned center right government of 1996-2000.

Doug M.

Andy H said...

That's interesting to know about who brought this policy in. So in fact it was the only nominally rightist government Romania has had since 89? Wow. My distrust of the PSD has grown even further.

Romania's maternity leave policy is WAY more generous than the UK's, and Spain's which are the two I know. I'm guessing Germany's is the one you are most familiar with and I'm guessing that Germany has a fairly generous one.

Andy H said...

Oh and... "EU accession hasn't made a bit of difference to this policy". I don't think I said it had. I speculated that it might (in the future).

Oh, and I remembered another nation that has much less generous maternity laws than Romania. Your own! Not in the EU, obviously, but certainly setting the standard for worker-unfriendly labour legislation. It seems in the States women are expected to pretty much deliver in the lunch break. And if they do dare to take a day or two off, it presumably comes out of their 3 days annual leave.

FEHÉR DELFIN said...

Interestingly, women are having signigificantly more babies in the States than in the EU, even with very generous subsidies. (Take a look at birth rates?)

How do you account for that?

Especially as you put it, if they give birth during their "lunch break"?

One clue: They are far more optimistic than their counterparts who enjoy "socially progressive policies" (whatever that is).

Anonymous said...

So in fact it was the only nominally rightist government Romania has had since 89?

The National Salvation Front and the first Iliescu government (1989-96) were pretty much Communism Lite. Iliescu liked to present himself as a "modern, European Social Democrat", but he was really a Gorbachevist. (No surprise, really... he and Gorby went to school together.)

The Constantinescu government(s) of 1996-2000 were nominally center-right, though "confused" would be more accurate. They have passed into public memory as a bunch of incompetents who spent their time bickering and infighting while the country drifted. There's a lot of truth to that, but on the other hand they did some real good.


Romania's maternity leave policy is WAY more generous than the UK's, and Spain's which are the two I know. I'm guessing Germany's is the one you are most familiar with and I'm guessing that Germany has a fairly generous one.

Yup. Though it's not clear if this will survive if the Christian Democrats get in -- the Bavarian wing of that party, in particular, has never loved things like maternity leave and day care.

-- There are 25 countries in the EU, and they vary hugely on stuff like this. Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark are very generous with maternity leave. Sweden gives 15 months fully paid, plus up to another year on partial pay. (And Swedish gender attitudes mean that it's the only country where elected politicians and senior civil servants -- of both sexes -- regularly take full paternity leave.) Britain, Spain and Ireland on the other hand... well.

This is why my reaction to your EU comment is still "WTF?". Accession hasn't forced the French or the Swedes to be less generous. (Nor the Irish or Spanish to be more.) This isn't an area where the EU legislates. The acquis just sets a minimum -- 14 weeks unpaid leave. Anything above that is up to the individual members.

Note that EU accession forced several new members to *increase* maternity leave. Socially conservative Malta, for instance, gave only 60 days. And that was mandated only for state employees... the private sector could do as it pleased. Now they have to give everyone that 14 week minimum.


Oh, and I remembered another nation that has much less generous maternity laws than Romania. Your own!

[glyph of eyes rolling]

Again, WTF? What does that have to do with anything? We were talking about Romania and the EU.

But since you bring it up: yes, the US is broadly less labor-friendly than most EU members. Other hand, you don't want to overgeneralize. While the federal government has no requirement as to parental leave, several individual states do -- including the two biggest, NY and CA.

And your own country hasn't exactly covered itself with glory in this regard. Britain didn't require parental leave until 1999. And it only requires the absolute minimum mandated by the EU: 13 weeks per parent, available in blocks of four weeks per year, with no statutory payment and no flexibility.

This is actually worse than California, which gives six weeks at half pay and another six weeks without pay, taken however you please. The new mom in Los Angeles is better off than her cousin in London.


And if they do dare to take a day or two off, it presumably comes out of their 3 days annual leave.

Now you're just being silly.


Doug M.

Andy H said...

Well, I was exaggerating for effect, obviously. But having spent 6 years working in the US the lack of vacation time and the pressure to even give up what little there was was the area which I found most bothersome (well, until the "election" of GW Bush, anyway).

(And, you certainly won't find me defending the UK's maternity leave policies past and present)

Andy H said...

I realise that what I managed to do with my original post was to take off with a line of thought (a line of worry) that has been troubling me reently regarding the EU's direction and present it out of context. Briefly, for now (with a fuller post later), I fear the EU is going to take the US line and become more and more "economic" at the expense of being "social". Dumping what Europe does best and instead more slavishly following the US model. It seems that the Union is at something of a crossroads and has to decide which direction it wants to take and with the impending election of a right wing government in Germany, we may end up with a Blair-Merkel-Berlusconi axis of rightism ranged against Zapatero (the only apparently liberal leader in W Europe at present). If we have to rely on Chirac to preserve Europe's social support, then god help us.

I didn't mean to imply that Romania was somehow ore progressive and socially liberal than the EU, or even that the EU was (currently) socially illiberal. (Though I concede that is precisely what I did imply)

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