Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has instructed his government to redraft controversial amendments to a law that originally envisaged substantial cuts in maternity leave benefits paid by the state.
The amendments sparked protests among young women and activists many of whom rallied outside the government and parliament buildings earlier this month. The protesters, some of them pregnant, demanded that the Armenian government annul its recent decision to seek corresponding amendments to a law that entitles pregnant working women to financial support during 140 days preceding and following the birth of a child.
The law currently stipulates that the monthly allowances must fully match the salaries of women employed by public or private entities. The government bill submitted to the parliament this month would cut their amount by at least 20 percent. Pregnant women with work experience of up to 1 and 3 years would be paid sums equivalent to only 40 percent and 60 percent of their wages respectively.
The government attributes the measure to the scarcity of public funds spent from its budget. Officials say the government would use the money saved through the proposed cuts to also pay benefits to unemployed mothers starting from 2016.
“As a result of numerous discussions it has become clear that there is, indeed, dissatisfaction around this issue. I think in this bill we should do everything to ensure that not a single pregnant woman suffers losses. Take it as a basis,” Prime Minister Abrahamian said at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, addressing his words to Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Artem Asatrian.
“The public should know that the government will not take any step that would harm pregnant women,” the head of the government emphasized. “I think that the draft law must consider the following principle: not a single working pregnant woman should suffer losses [because of the law].”
Minister Asatrian reportedly announced that a new version of amendments addressing the aforementioned concerns will be presented soon.