Revised Labour Code needs to promote rights of female labourers hinh anh 1A room for pumping breast milk has been set up for female workers at Dong Xoai 2 Industrial Zone in southern Binh Phuoc Province.(Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - The revised Labour Code is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly for approval this month. However, major changes to the law are still under discussion in an attempt to ensure gender equality and enhance the development of female workers.

An increase to the retirement age, the promotion of support related to childcare and fair payment for female workers are among the controversial issues.

Nguyen Thi Thu, a female worker at Garment 10 Company in Hanoi’s Gia Lam district, said she had been enjoying support policies for female workers, especially during maternity and motherhood, at her workplace.

Thu and other female workers are allowed to take days off when their children are sick, among the other benefits. However, the increase in the retirement age, which has been raised from 55 to 60 for female workers in the draft revised Labour Code, is not good for her.

Thu said garment workers had to stand up at work for nearly eight hours per day, so she didn't think she'd be healthy enough to work until she reached 60. The policy should be flexible for different careers, she said.

Bui Duc Thinh, Chairman of Song Hong Garment Joint Stock Company in the northern province of Nam Dinh, told Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper that the increased retirement age could help solve the ageing population problem and the shortage of jobs in the future. However, it would create difficulties for labourers and enterprises in the garment industry.

The life expectancy of labourers who produce garments is very low. Most can only work until they are 45 as their health is not good enough to continue the job.

The increase in the retirement age would put female labourers in a difficult situation as enterprises did not want to hire old and weak employees, he said.

Thinh said there were more than 10,000 labourers working at his company. Of that, nearly 80 percent were women.

Policies on gender equality would have a great impact on the production and business of the company, he said.

The regulation related to childcare has also caused concerns.

Nguyen Xuan Duong, Chairman of Hung Yen province’s Textile and Garment Association, said allowing female workers a 30 minute break when they were on their periods would affect the workflow and reduce productivity, especially for those who worked on a production line.

Professor Giang Thanh Long of the National Economics University said parental leave provisions should be applied for both female and male workers. Both female and male workers should be eligible for time off related to childcare as a way of promoting shared family responsibilities.

Fair payment is another issue that needs to be looked at, Long said.  The draft law should ensure a fair assessment of work efficiency and salaries for male and female workers in the same jobs.

Thu, the garment worker, agreed, saying she hoped female workers would be paid the same as men in the same jobs.

Bui Si Loi, Vice Chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee for Social Affairs, said there were always different opinions on the issues, but it was necessary to prioritise the interests of female workers.

Although some contents of the draft could affect female workers' productivity, they should be included to ensure the best interests of female workers.

The break time during menstruation was an example, he said. Employers and employees could negotiate if the provision affected the job. In case employees could not have a break as stipulated, employers must compensate for employees.

The increase in the retirement age, according to Loi, was necessary and should be implemented step by step.

Currently, 36 percent of the member countries of the International Labour Organisation have applied a retirement age of 62 for male workers and 60 for female workers.

Nguyen Van Binh, deputy head of the Ministry of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs’ Legal Department, who is also a member of the drafting committee, said the committee had collected a wide range of opinions and adjusted the draft accordingly to ensure the benefits of workers, enterprises and the country.

The committee will finalise the revised law to submit to the 8th session of the 14th National Assembly, which begins on October 21./.