With China's low birth rate, many would think that women looking to start families would get more support at work.
However, that's not the case at one company, where three female employees were asked to take turns applying for maternity leave.
The reason for this request? So business operations would not be "paralysed" by their absence, reported South China Morning Post.
The women had planned to have children at around the same time.
One of them is a 28-year-old who got married before she joined the company earlier in the year. Even if she hadn't gotten the job, she already had plans to get pregnant.
A newly-wed, who is 37, wanted to have a baby as soon as possible.
While she's already a mum, another 37-year-old employee was planning to have her second child.
When the company's senior executives learned of the the employees' plans, the trio were called in for a meeting.
"You need to take turns to get pregnant," an executive allegedly told the women.
The company could not handle being short-staffed if they were to go on maternity leave at the same time, she explained.
Unsure of her next step, the 28-year-old employee sought help on Weibo. Her post went viral and sparked a discussion.
Some felt that the women were not treated fairly, with one saying: "Look how difficult it is for women to have a job."
On the other end of the spectrum, several netizens voiced concern for the other staff in the company.
One netizen wrote: "If I worked in a company with three colleagues on maternity leave, I would be driven crazy by the overloaded work."
China's plans to boost low birth rate
In 2022, China's birth rate fell to 6.77 births per 1,000 people, the lowest on record.
This is largely due to the one-child policy imposed between 1980 and 2015, Reuters reported. Although the limit was raised to three in 2021, young people are reluctant to have children.
According to demographers, China will get old before it gets rich, as its workforce shrinks and local governments spend more on caring for the elderly population.
In hopes of boosting the birth rate, Chinese government advisers have come up with over 20 recommendations.
These proposals were made at the annual meeting of China's People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in March and include subsidies for families raising their first child, rather than just the second and third.
There were also suggestions to expand free public education and improve access to fertility treatments.
To reduce discrimination against women at the workplace, maternity leave paid by the government instead of employers was also proposed as a measure.
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