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Chinese single mothers, denied benefits, push for change

TAIPE, TAIWAN (AP) – Sarah Gao was busy. As the head of an investment fund of 500 million yuan ($ 76.8 million), he was constantly flying during business trips through China. Then she found out she was pregnant.

Her pregnancy with her boyfriend at the time was unplanned. But Gao, 40, thought he would have no chance, so he decided to keep the baby. What she did not know was how the decision would lead to a nearly four-year legal battle for her maternity benefits.

Her long struggle underscores the consequences that Chinese women face when raising a child out of wedlock. Most Vast applicants are not eligible for public benefits, from paid maternity leave to prenatal exam coverage, as their status is in the legal gray area. Some may even be fined.

Gaon և Some other single mothers want to change that. They are part of a small group organized by the Advocates Diverse Family Network, which mediated the National People’s Congress Legal Affairs Committee at its recent annual meeting. They do not expect immediate action, but hope that their needs will be reflected in the legislative agenda in the future.

China’s population is aging rapidly, և The government wants to boost the birth rate by easing family restriction laws in 2015 so that every family has two children. But single parent laws have not changed that fast.

There are no official statistics on the number of single households in China, but according to a 2014 study by the National Health Commission, by 2020 there would be about 20 million single mothers. Many of them come from divorce, there is a level of divorce in the country. almost doubled from 2009 to 2018, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

After a difficult pregnancy, Gao gave birth to her daughter in November 2016. After a seven-month sick leave, she returned to work after maternity leave. During his illness leave, his company, KunYuan Asset Management, paid him the minimum. Approximately 1,000 yuan ($ 153) a month, which was a big drop from his usual monthly salary of 30,000 yuan ($ 4,606). The company did not pay her during maternity leave.

Gao is pressuring the company for full pay, maternity leave benefits, part of which comes from social security, which is legally covered by companies.

In Beijing, where Gao lives, an employee can apply for these public benefits only through their company. But Gao’s company refused to contact him, saying that his materials were incomplete because he did not have a marriage license.

When he asked the question, the company asked him to resign. Gao initially refused to resign, but was eventually fired. However, the company refused to provide him with an official letter acknowledging his departure, making it difficult for him to find a new job.

The company did not respond to requests for comment by e-mail, and phone calls to Beijing headquarters remained unanswered.

Gao is suing the company for a refund of 1 million yuan ($ 153,645) in addition to his maternity leave. He has lost twice in court since July 2017 and is appealing for the third time.

The court has repeatedly stated that “Gao’s unmarried status at birth does not comply with national policy and therefore lacks a legal basis for receiving a salary during maternity leave.”

China’s family planning policy does not explicitly prohibit unmarried women from having children, but states that “the state encourages a husband և wife to have two children.”

At the local level, this is interpreted to mean that only a married couple can have children. This becomes an obstacle to receiving benefits, such as reimbursement for prenatal visits and salary during maternity leave.

Many local governments require marriage permits in the process, says Dong Xiaoying, founder of the Diverse Advocates Family Network.

There have been some changes. In Guangdong և Shanghai, governments have changed the rules so that a woman does not have to provide proof of marriage before receiving benefits.

In January, Shanghai quietly enacted a new rule that eliminated the need for marriage permits to receive benefits, helping women like ouo Xiaoki, a single mother, become an activist in Shanghai. In 2017, he sued the Shanghai State Agency for receiving his maternity leave salary, state insurance benefits. After years of media interviews, appearances in court, and lobbying city politicians, Zou received his benefits earlier this month.

Laws need to be changed, he said, because the cultural stigma is still very intense. Only recently did she learn that her son’s playmate’s mother is also a single mother. They knew each other five months ago, before the woman discovered the detail.

“The immediate effect is that there are single mothers who are already facing great difficulties and finding themselves in more difficult positions,” she said. “The indirect effect is that some people are afraid to speak out, and some are afraid to confront the public, they will face a lot of pressure. “People who do not want to get married eventually get married and get into an unhappy marriage.”

Single mothers and activists hope that national-level change can improve the situation of single mothers in the rest of the country, like Gao. In February, a delegate from the Guangdong National People’s Assembly said the Family Planning Act might need some clarification to meet the needs of single mothers by acknowledging their legal concerns.

“I just want to know in national politics, as a single parent, as an unmarried woman, do I have the right to give birth?” Gao said.

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