Improving Maternity Leave for All Before Campaigning “Very Magical Vitamin” for Country’s Falling Birthrate

Promoting the “Red-Cheeked Thai Women Bear Children for the Nation with Wonderful Vitamins” program is one solution for Thailand’s baby problem. The concern over birthrate collapse has challenged population aging and potential labor shortages. Economic factors are significantly important for family planning. While female employees in formal sector are provided full government-funded maternity benefits, women in informal sector are inadequately covered and left to bear the cost of taking care of their children alone.

Asian Correspondent reported that on Valentine’s day this year, the Thai government handed out pills, called “very magical vitamin”, as part of a large campaign for boosting the country’s falling fertility rate. These “magical” prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and iron to women between the ages of 20 and 34. The activity was held at the Bang Rak Distract Office – where a number of couples come for marriage registrations, as ‘Rak’ means love in Thai. The health minister director recommended women should take these vitamins at least three months before pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects. The vitamin box campaign-led by Ministry of Public Health was funded with one million baht and it is also part of an ongoing program to growing number of children under a plan approved by the cabinet in October 2016.

A box of prenatal vitamins that will be distributed by the Public Health Ministry starting on Valentine’s Day. (Photo credit: Khaosod English -http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/2017/02/09/valentines-day-please-bear...)

 

Thailand is facing the dramatically declining of birthrate with averagely 1.6 children per Thai women. Accroding to Prasartkul and Vapattanawong (2012), Mahidol University, from more than a million births, the country’s birthrate dropped to 760,00 birth per years, while the mortality rate reaches at 400,000 deaths per year. The alarming sign indicates that a gap between birth rates and death rate are growing apart quickly. Rising a cost of having a large family, social and economic changes (Robey, 1988). Furthermore, women are more likely to not get married since they are able to improve their socio-economic status. They prefer to have lower numbers of children among married couple with focus on quality rather than quantity.

From the survey results in 2012, it was found there were more women in informal employment, at 28.8 more than formal employment, 17.20. They were in agriculture sector (about 15.5 million or 62.5%), followed by trade and service sector (28.3%) and manufacturing sector (9.2%).

 

Source: National Statistical Office (NSO), 2012

One of the most vulnerable groups in Informal employments are female home-based workers who are not inclusively covered by the state-led social protection; consequently, experiencing more difficulties during their pregnancy. There were 294,290 homeworking households with 440,251 homeworkers in Thailand from last available Homework Survey by the National Statistics Office in 2007. This survey also indicated that over 75 per cent of the total number of homeworkers were women (National Statistical Office, 2007). Under the law Labour Protection Act of 1998, maternity leave for Thailand fully covers female workers in formal sectors ‘section 41. A pregnant female employee shall have the right to take maternity leave of not more than ninety days per pregnancy’. In 2004 the Ministry of labour has issued regulations for the protection of labour workers who work from home (in terms of costs and compensation), it is not sufficient to protect workers’ rights. An examination of the Ministerial Regulation and the SSA reveals that Thai law does not provide home workers with protection in the areas of remuneration, training, social security or maternity leave. Indeed, the bulk of the Ministerial Regulation’s content does not enhance the protection of home workers (Thanachaisethavut et al., 2008). According to Sasaki et al (2015), most of female home workers under their study did not take any maternity leave or receive benefits as their female formal employees because they could not afford to financially maintain social security coverage even after they gave up on their formal jobs. With their economic pressure to secure their stable income, maternity leave is not an option for the home-based workers.

Handing out the vitamin- the initiative campaign to boost a number of babies supported by the government, questions the maternity coverage whether it can provide the benefits to all. Pregnant women, particularly in the informal sector, experienced economic burden more than those who are in the formal employment. Since ‘women’ do not fit in one box. Within women’s group, they have different socio-economic conditions, resulting in different degree of vulnerability. Considering maternity leave should pay more attention to make it more inclusive for all.

This blog post is published as part of the Ambassador Series, which presents insights into social protection around the world from the viewpoint of our Ambassadors, a group of international online United Nations Volunteers who support the online knowledge exchange activities, networking and promotion of socialprotection.org.

References:

Asian Correspondent (February 14, 2017).  Govt hands out ‘very magical’ prenatal vitamins on Valentine’s. Asian Correspondent. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/02/thailand-govt-hands-out-free-pren...

ILO (n.d.). THAILAND Labour Protection Act of 1998. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/WEBTEXT/49727/65119/E98THA01.htm

National Statistical Office (NSO). (2012). THE INFORMAL EMPLOYMENT SURVEY 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2017, from http://service.nso.go.th/nso/nsopublish/themes/files/workerOutRep55.pdf

National Statistics Office (NSO). (2007), Home work survey, Retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://web.nso.go.th/en/survey/homework/hwork07.htm

Prasartkul , P. & Vapattanawong, P. (2012) Birth. Thai Health 2012, pp 12-13.

Robey, B. (December, 1988). Asia-Pacific Population & Policy. Population Institute Newsletter, East-West Center. No.7

Sasaki, S., Kusakabe, K. & Doneys, P. (2015). Exploring human (in-)security from a gender perspective: A case study of subcontracted workers in Thailand. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. 36 (5/6), pp. 304 - 318

Thaitrakulpanich, A. (February 9, 2017) THIS VALENTINE’S DAY, PLEASE ‘BEAR CHILDREN FOR THE NATION WITH WONDERFUL VITAMINS’. Khaosod English. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/2017/02/09/valentines-day-please-bear...

Thanachaisethavut, B., Charoenlert, V. & Saeng-ging, S. (2008). Thailand:

Extending Labour Protection to the Informal Economy in Thailand. Retrieved March 11, 2017, from Asian Labour Law Review, from http://www.amrc.org.hk/sites/default/files/ALLR2008%20Thailand.pdf

Cover image - A portrait of Hmong women and child in Mae Salong, Thailand. Photo ID 491915. 14/06/2011. Mae Salong, Thailand. UN Photo/Kibae Park, from Flickr

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social insurance
    • Health insurance
    • Maternity/Paternity benefits
    • Unemployment insurance
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Gender
  • Inequality
  • Poverty
  • Social inclusion
Countries: 
  • Thailand
Regions: 
  • East Asia & Pacific
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's

Comments

Thanks for this Kanokphan - a very interesting and thought provoking piece. 

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