Jusuf Kalla moots shorter hours for working mums

Jusuf Kalla moots shorter hours for working mums

Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla is studying the possibility of allowing working women with children younger than nine years old to go to work one hour late and return home an hour early without taking a pay cut - an idea that has received mixed reactions.

While some think the extra hours at home will improve mother-child bonding, others pointed out that fathers also have the same responsibility in bringing up children.

"Jusuf Kalla thinks human development is our important future investment, where mothers play a pivotal role," Mr Hussain Abdullah, spokesman for Mr Kalla, told The Straits Times.

The move to shorten the working day for women with young children could be done via a new law or a presidential decree, once agreed upon by the public and lawmakers, officials said.

The proposal comes at a time when more women are joining the workforce in South-east Asia's biggest economy, analysts said.

The idea could also be seen as the 72-year-old Mr Kalla trying to enhance his profile, separate from that of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who enjoys strong support at the grassroots level.

"This may be part of the populist policies that the government wants to have, and having such a rule could help ease pressures from labourers demanding higher pay across Indonesia," Mr Ali Nurdin, a political analyst at Mathla'ul Anwar University, told The Straits Times.

Ms Catharina Widyasrini, a mother and a communications expert who owns a public relations agency, said the idea might be rejected by pro- women groups that want women to achieve equality at the workplace and not get special help.

Indonesia has in recent years passed several laws to ensure gender equality, including requiring political parties to have women make up 30 per cent of their MP candidate lists.

People such as entrepreneur Neneng Herbawati said the extra hours spent with their young children are important, as the first nine years are "the golden years" to shape a child's thinking.

"We need to optimally spend time with our children up to age nine. After that, our children will belong to their school. They will be busy with school activities," Ms Neneng, who owns an IT solution firm, told The Straits Times.

Others are against it. Mr Ali said: "It will benefit only working women, at the huge expense of companies and employers. There is this shoe factory where 80 per cent of its labourers are women. Imagine the impact on this factory if this rule is passed."

Ms Julia Suryakusuma, a columnist at The Jakarta Post, said it was simplistic to think that having mothers at home would improve mother-child bonding.

"Working mothers spend more quality time with their children who actually look forward to seeing their mothers, as opposed to stay-at-home mums whose children take their presence for granted," she wrote.


This article was first published on December 20, 2014.
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