YEREVAN (RE/RL)—The Armenian government has reconsidered its original plans to make considerable cuts in maternity leave benefits after the move sparked protests among working women.
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Artem Asatrian said on Tuesday that an overwhelming majority of women will not be affected by the changes envisaged in a number of related laws, while for the rest employers will have to ensure appropriate payments.
The current law stipulates that the monthly allowances must fully match the salaries of women employed by public or private entities. The originally planned government bill would cut their amount by between 20 and 60 percent depending on their work experience.
The government attributed the measure to the scarcity of public funds spent from its budget, saying that it would use the money saved through the proposed cuts to also pay benefits to unemployed mothers starting from 2016. The move, however, sparked protests among mostly young women and activists many of whom rallied outside the government and parliament buildings late last month.
At a government session last Thursday Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian instructed his Cabinet to redraft the amendments in a way that “not a single pregnant woman suffers as a result”.
During hearings on the matter in parliament on Tuesday Minister Asatrian said that women whose monthly salary does not exceed 1 million drams (about $2,500) will not be affected by the planned changes, while employers will have to take care of the extra payments to those who receive higher salaries. According to him, at present there are only 400 women in Armenia whose salaries are above the indicated sum.
Lawmaker Aghvan Vartanian from the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation said the government decision was the result of the protests staged by women.
“It is very important that there was a public protest and women stood up for their rights,” he said.