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UNICEF Congratulates Viet Nam on Maternity Leave Extension to Six Months

Textile factory Tien Thuan, Phan Rang, Viet Nam © UN Viet Nam\2010\Aidan Dockery

Ha Noi, 19 June 2012 – UNICEF Viet Nam’s Representative, Ms. Lotta Sylwander, today congratulated the Government, Parliament and people of Viet Nam on extending maternity leave to six months. On 18 June, nearly all of Viet Nam’s National Assembly members - 466 out of 467 - approved Labour Code revision to allow maternity leave extension from four to six months.

“Viet Nam was the first country in Asia and second in the world to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child. By voting for extension of maternity leave to six months, it has become a leader in developing protective laws that safeguard the well-being of children and mothers. It stands as the model to follow in the whole East Asia and Pacific region in promoting breastfeeding protection”, said Ms. Lotta Sylwander.

Maternity leave is good for breastfeeding

A Thai ethnic minority woman breastfeeds her baby at NaSan 1 village, Dien Bien, Viet Nam. © UNICEF Viet Nam/2011/Doan Bao Chau 

“Maternity leave extension in Viet Nam is a key milestone to ensure that babies are breastfed exclusively from the minute they are born to the time they are six months old. No mother should have to choose between her career and the best nutrition for her infant”, Ms. Lotta Sylwander added.

Lack of exclusive breastfeeding during the first half-year of life can have a life-long impact, including poor school performance, reduced productivity and impaired intellectual and social development. In addition, an exclusively breastfed child has reduced risk of autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and is better protected against several malign diseases and certain forms of cancer later in life.

But exclusive breastfeeding is difficult to achieve if the mother has to leave her infant and parental responsibilities behind and return to work before six months. In a recent survey conducted by UNICEF’s partner in Viet Nam, Alive & Thrive, Vietnamese mothers indicated that going back to work is one of the main reasons they abandon exclusive breastfeeding. In Viet Nam, fewer than 1 in 5 infants are breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life.

Maternity protection for women workers contributes to the health and well-being of mothers and their babies, and thus to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which seeks to reduce child mortality and improve the health of mothers. By safeguarding women’s employment and income security during and after maternity, maternity protection also contributes to the realisation of Millennium Development Goal 3, which focuses on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Stronger maternity leave is good for employers

“For employers and for Viet Nam, not breastfeeding exclusively results in increased health care costs and a less stable workforce. Stronger maternity leave policies create a more stable and loyal workforce. When mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding, it leads to healthier children and reduces the financial resources spent each year on addressing illnesses caused by poor infant and child feeding in Viet Nam”, Ms. Sylwander concludes. “By voting for maternity leave extension, the government voted for Vietnamese children’s health.”

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF Viet Nam and its work visit: www.unicef.org/vietnam

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