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Childcare Leave in China

By Qian Zhou, Dezan Shira

Childcare leave (or parental leave) refers to a period of paid or unpaid leave granted to employees for the care and/or support of their children under a certain age. Although this welfare policy has existed in many other countries for years, childcare leave is very new in China and was only introduced recently as part of an effort to address the growing demographic imbalance and boost childbirth

In this article, we offer an overview of the establishment of childcare leave policy in China, summarize its recent developments in China’s different regions, and explain how childcare leave will be implemented in practice.

The establishment of childcare leave in China

On May 9, 2019, the State Council issued the Guidelines on Improving Care Services for Infants and Children Under Three Years Old, encouraging local governments to pilot childcare leave within their jurisdictions. This is designed to provide more support to home-based childcare services.

In the period following, multiple regions began exploring the implementation of childcare leave, including Xianing City in Hubei Province, Dalian City in Liaoning Province, and the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, and Ningxia. At that time, however, employers were only encouraged to grant employees childcare leave until the child reached a certain age, and were not obliged to do so.

Then China announced the three-child policy in May 2021 and updated its Population and Family Planning Law in August 2021. The latter stipulates that the state supports the establishment of childcare leave where conditions permit. This is understood as a stronger and higher-level indicator of China’s determination to improve its childcare system and implement childcare leave policy.

In the following months, this suggestion was translated into concrete local policies, as more and more provinces amended their population and family planning regulations and stipulated that both parents who lawfully have a child are entitled to a certain amount of paid childcare leave per year until their child reaches a certain age. That is to say, in these regions, paid childcare leave has become a lawful right of employees, which must be granted if certain criteria are met.

It is important to note, however, not all provinces have made childcare leave a mandatory policy. Jiangsu and Jilin have amended their population and family planning regulation, but Jiangsu’s regulation only stipulates that the implementation of the childcare leave system will be promoted and the specific implementation measures will be formulated by the provincial people’s government. Jilin’s regulation, meanwhile, only has an ‘encouragement clause’: it supports the establishment of childcare leave in regions where conditions allow.

How long is childcare leave in China?

Similar to many other child-related leaves, childcare leave is managed by local governments. To know how long childcare leave is in China, we must take a closer look at the corresponding regulations in each province.

As of December 2, 2021, 20 provinces have amended their population and family planning regulations, among which 18 provinces stipulated the length of childcare leave.

Beijing and Shanghai both stipulate that each couple can enjoy five days’ childcare leave each year until their child reaches three years. Beijing further stated that the total amount of childcare leaves a couple can take each year is no more than 10 working days.

Anhui and Chongqing raised the maximum age limit of children for childcare leave to six.  According to Anhui’s population and family planning regulation, each parent will be given 10 days of childcare leave each year until their child is six years old. Chongqing’s arrangement is more flexible, allowing one of two options:

  • After the maternity leave or paternity leave expires, subject to the approval of the employer, either parent can take childcare leave until the child reaches one year; or
  • Both parents can take five to 10 days of childcare leave each year until the child reaches six years.

In other provinces, the revised family planning regulations have not yet been adopted, but some provinces have published revised drafts of their local population and family planning regulations to solicit public opinions. Among them, Shaanxi plans to stipulate that each parent has no less than 30 days of childcare leave each year until their child reaches three years. Hainan plans to set up two options for childcare leave: employers are encouraged to give 10 days’ childcare leave to each parent per year until their child reaches three years, or to give one hour of childcare leave to either parent every day until the child reaches three years.

Childcare leave in relevant provinces

  • Anhui 10 days/year for each parent until the child reaches 6 (Jan. 1, 2022)
  • Beijing 5 days/year for each parent until child is 3 years old (Nov. 26, 2021)
  • Chongqing 5-10 days/year for each parent until the child reaches 6 or one parent takes childcare leave until the child reaches 1 after the maternity leave or paternity leave expires (subject to the approval of the employer) (November 25, 2021)
  • Gansu 15 days/year for each parent until child is 3 years old (Nov. 26, 2021)
  • Guangdong 10 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (December 1, 2021)
  • Guizhou 10 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (Oct. 1, 2021)
  • Hebei 10 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (Nov. 23, 2021)
  • Heilongjiang 10 days/year for each parent until child is 3 years old (Nov. 1, 2021)
  • Henan 10 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (November 27, 2021)
  • Hubei 10 days/year for each parent until the child reaches age 3 (Nov. 26, 2021)
  • Jiangxi 10 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (September 29, 2021)
  • Ningxia 10 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (Nov. 30, 2021)
  • Qinghai 15 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (Nov. 26, 2021)
  • Shanghai 5 days/year for each parent until child is 3 years old (Nov. 25, 2021)
  • Shanxi 15 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (Sept. 29, 2021)
  • Sichuan 10 days/year for each parent until child is 3 years old (Sept. 29, 2021)
  • Tianjin 10 days/year for each parent until child is 3 years old (Nov. 29, 2021)
  • Zhejiang 10 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (Nov. 25, 2021)
  • Liaoning 10 days/year for each parent until the child is 3 years old (Nov. 26, 2021)
  • Hainan 11 days/year for each parent until child is 3 years old (draft)
  • Shaanxi 30 days/year for each parent until the child reaches 3 or 1 hour/day for either parent until the child reaches 1 (draft)
  • Shandong 10 days/year for each parent until child is 3 years old (draft)

How will childcare leave be implemented in practice?

Childcare leave has been established, but details on how it will be implemented are yet to be clarified in most provinces.

Beijing and Shanghai have made it clear that annual childcare leave is not calculated in calendar years, but in “anniversaries”. For example, if the child was born on December 19, 2021,  December 18, 2022 will be the ‘anniversary’ marking the end of the year in which each parent is entitled to five days of childcare leave.

Shanghai further clarified that childcare leave days are calculated according to the number of children the employee has. If the employee has two children who are both under three years, then they will be entitled to 10 days of childcare leave for the year. Moreover, Shanghai makes it clear that the childcare leave should be used in the current year, and can be taken over consecutively or on separate days and also stipulates that wages during childcare leave shall be paid in accordance with the normal attendance wages.

If companies operate in provinces where childcare leave has been established, they are advised to keep a close eye on the further policy developments and to start considering amendments to their employee handbook to adapt to this new statutory leave.

This article first appeared in Asia Briefing, published by Dezan Shira Associates. The firm advises international investors in Asia and has offices in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Russia, and Vietnam.

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