Should women be entitled to period leave? These countries think so

that will’s mostly because Mochizuki is actually lucky — her periods aren’t a big problem. although she’s also been reluctant to use Japan’s long-standing leave entitlement as that will would certainly have involved telling her managers, most of whom have been male, that will she was menstruating.

“the idea’s very private along with, especially in Japan, that will’s still kind of a taboo,” said Mochizuki, who works in event management. “We don’t want to talk about the idea with any men.”

Japan’s period leave entitlement has existed for more than 70 years, along with the country isn’t alone in Asia in having such a policy. South Korea adopted period leave in 1953. along with in China along with India, provinces along with companies are increasingly adopting menstruation leave policies that has a range of entitlements.

The landscape on the additional side of the planet, however, looks a lot different. Period leave policy is actually almost nonexistent inside the United States, the United Kingdom along with Europe.

along with even in countries that will do have period leave, feminists are split on whether period leave is actually a step back or a sign of progress when the idea comes to women’s rights. Some argue that will the idea’s as necessary for working women as maternity leave, while others say that will the idea casts women as less able than men along with could lead to further discrimination.

Widely available, although rarely used

Japan introduced its period leave policy in 1947 to address labor rights concerns.

For at least a decade, female factory workers had been granted period leave to give them a reprieve via harsh labor along with poor sanitary conditions, while struggling with menstrual pain. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the country wrote period leave into its fresh labor laws as a right for all female employees whose periods are “especially difficult.”

At first, there was a relatively high take-up — around 26% in 1965, according to local media. Estimates vary on the proportion of women globally who experience dysmenorrhea, or period pain so bad that will the idea interferes with daily activities, although all point to the idea being a common condition.

As time went on, fewer women took the option. A Japanese government survey in 2017 found that will only 0.9% of female employees claimed period leave.

In South Korea, usage is actually also dropping. In a 2013 survey, 23.6% of South Korean women used the leave. By 2017, that will rate had fallen to 19.7%.

There are a few reasons that will might explain that will. Although all companies in Japan have to give women period leave when they request the idea, they are not required to pay. along with some woman may not even know that will the idea’s available to them, as companies don’t typically advertise the idea, said Yumiko Murakami, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation along with Development’s (OECD) Tokyo Center.

although the bigger issue in both South Korea along with Japan is actually cultural.

A woman browses products on a shelf in a discount store inside the area of Shibuya in Tokyo, Japan, on March 1, 2013.
Women already face an uphill battle in both countries, which have some of the highest gender pay gaps inside the OECD along with some of the lowest shares of female managers. Although the idea’s illegal to discriminate against female employees in Japan, they often face pressure to quit once they become pregnant, Murakami said. along with workers of all genders in Japan are discouraged via taking leave of any kind, Murakami added.

Mochizuki remembers one colleague taking her period leave once. “I thought, ‘Why?’ along with, ‘How can you do that will, how can you tell your boss?'” Instead, she thinks more general sick leave would certainly work better than menstruation leave for helping women with particularly difficult periods.

On top of that will, periods remain a sensitive subject. When women buy tampons via the store, for example, the clerk puts them in brown paper bags, as if they are something that will need to be hidden, said Murakami.

“If you tell people you’re taking leave because of your period, that will will be seen as you’re not as not bad as men,” she said.

The case for period leave

In additional parts of Asia, companies aren’t just using period leave to support their workers — they’re also producing a political statement.

Indian food delivery company Zomato, for example, said when the idea rolled out its policy in August that will the idea wanted to change perceptions in India where periods are shrouded in shame.

“At Zomato, we want to foster a culture of trust, truth along with acceptance,” founder along with CEO Deepinder Goyal told staff in an email, which was released publicly. “There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma attached to applying for a period leave. You should feel free to tell people on internal groups, or emails that will you are on your period leave for the day.”
A biker via food delivery company Zomato in Bikaner, India.
The announcement was notable in a country where women are sometimes not allowed to cook or touch anyone when they are menstruating. Girls in India typically miss 20% of the school year because of their period, along with 70% of mothers consider menstruation “dirty,” according to a 2014 report by philanthropic organization Dasra.

although Zomato’s announcement was still met with backlash on social media, where critics argued that will the policy could make women look weak or discourage managers via hiring female workers. Some of those opposing the move were women.

According to University of Sydney professor Elizabeth Hill, who researches gender along with employment, the reason period leave is actually so hotly contested even among feminists is actually because there is actually little data on whether period leave helps or hinders women inside the workplace.

Hill says many of the arguments against period leave are similar to those that will have been made against maternity leave. Opponents argued that will producing employers pay maternity leave could discourage them via hiring women.

although Hill also said there’s at that will point evidence to suggest that will generous maternity leave policies encourage women to stay inside the workforce rather than push them out.

that will’s particularly important in India, which has one of the lowest female participation rates inside the workforce, at 35%.

“the idea’s a wonderful reframing of what the problem is actually — the problem is actually work, not women,” said Deepa Narayan, a social scientist along with former senior adviser at the planet Bank.

An Indian man looks on as he walks along a wall painting about female menstruation at the school for underprivileged children, Parijat Academy, on the Menstrual Hygiene Day in Guwahati on May 28, 2019.

Guneet Monga, who produced an Academy Award-winning short documentary called “Period. End of Sentence” about menstruation in India, said Zomato’s move seems progressive, although, even if the idea trickles into additional workplaces, the idea won’t make an impact to the millions of women in India not working in office jobs.

“I think that will that will whole concept of women’s rights along with equality along with feminism is actually not a choice at the lower economic level. They just work day to day to feed. They work on an existential crisis,” she said. “I encourage the conversation at one level, although I do think the idea is actually a long way before we see a change.”

Why period leave hasn’t taken off inside the West

Every few years, the topic of period leave hits the headlines in Western countries. Just as often, the idea’s accompanied by scathing think pieces about why the idea’s a bad idea.

After Zomato’s announcement, the Washington Post ran an opinion piece titled: “I’m a feminist. Giving women a day off for their period is actually a stupid idea.” The article argued that will period leave is actually a “paternalistic along with silly” proposal that will “reaffirms that will there is actually a biological determinism to the lives of women.”

along with after the Victorian Women’s Trust, an Australian advocacy group for women’s rights, introduced a menstruation leave policy for its staff in 2017, Brisbane newspaper The Courier-Mail ran an opinion piece with the headline: “As a working woman in Australia I’m insulted by that will crazy plan.”
Employees of Myna Mahila Foundation, an Indian charity championing menstrual hygiene, prepare sanitary pads at their office in Mumbai on April 10, 2018.

Hill, the Sydney professor, said there was anecdotal evidence that will younger women along with men inside the West tend to be more receptive to the idea, while older women are more opposed. Older women often feel that will because they struggled through work while menstruating, younger women should do the same, Hill said.

She noted that will there were different designs for period leave — along with not all policies were created equal.

Some argue that will there should be more personal leave entitlements for people of all genders, Hill said. Others advocate for increasing sick leave to include period leave, although critics argue that will women aren’t sick when they have their period — they are just experiencing a normal, biological process.

Evidence suggests there is actually some desire — along with need — for period leave inside the West.

A survey of 32,748 Dutch women published inside the British Medical Journal last year found that will 14% had taken time off via work or school during their period. Even when they called in sick due to their period, only 20% gave the real reason.

Around 68% said they wished they had the option of more flexible work or study hours during their period. although most — just under 81% — turned up to work anyway, even though they felt less productive as a result of their symptoms. Lost productivity amounted to almost nine days a year, according to the study.

India has an unlikely fresh type of period health educators: men

At the Victorian Women’s Trust, executive director Mary Crooks said the benefits of period leave have been “absolutely palpable” for her office which has 13 female staff members.

“You shouldn’t have to be dishonest about why you can’t come to work, along with why you can’t perform productively at work,” she said, adding that will the reproductive cycle was crucial to women’s physical along with mental health.

The trust’s policy gives women options: a comfortable spot to work inside the office, permission to work via home or to take up to 12 paid days of menstrual leave each year.

inside the four years since the idea was introduced, staff have only taken 21 paid period leave days between them, Crooks said.

The culture has become more supportive along with staff feel more comfortable discussing their menstrual needs along with care for themselves better, she said. Because employees feel respected by their company, they also work more productively, Crooks added.

“I think there’s nothing although positives that will have come about in our workplace as a result of the idea,” she said. “To us, the removal of shame along with stigma is actually one of the great big jigsaw pieces inside the gender equality picture.”

that will’s certainly the case in Japan, where stigma still exists.

Part of the reason women aren’t taking period leave, according to the OECD’s Murakami, is actually that will the culture around leave along with menstruation makes women fear that will taking the idea could lead to discrimination by their employers.

“I do think the law itself is actually actually meant to help women, although if the idea’s not implemented well the idea could hurt women,” she said.

CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki contributed to that will story via Tokyo, Japan. CNN’s Gawon Bae along with Yoonjung Seo contributed via Seoul, South Korea.

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