The declining fertility rate is contributing to an ageing population and a reduced workforce. Improving maternity rights can help.

Governments across the globe to look at ways of retaining women in the workforce as well as encouraging them to have children by extending maternity rights.

For governments and companies alike, these improved maternity benefits should help to retain women – especially the highly skilled and motivated employees who are the leaders of the future – within the workforce.

For companies like Danone – for whom over a fifth of its turnover comes from its Early Life Nutrition division – there is the added bonus that employed women have less time to prepare home-made food, and more money to buy commercially prepared foods.

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The Colombian president has recently approved plans to raise maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks. And the government is also requiring all public entities as well as private companies with 50 or more employees or a profit equivalent to over 1,500 times the minimum wage to create rooms where their female employees can breast feed.

In Cuba the government has come up with an innovative approach: in addition to the right to transfer their maternity leave to the father, women can now choose to transfer this leave to the child’s grandparents if they are working.

Families with two or more children will also be entitled to a 50 percent rebate on childcare costs for two children, with a 100 percent rebate for subsequent children.

Triplets (etc) will be entitled to a 100 percent rebate.

In India, parliament has extended the current 12 weeks’ paid maternity leave to 26 weeks for women employed in the organised sector for companies with 10 or more employees, for the first two children.

Mothers of third children will be entitled to 12 weeks’ paid maternity leave.

The changes will benefit about 1.8m women. The bill also requires companies with more than 50 employees to set up a creche which women can visit four times a day.

Despite the difficult economic situation in Russia, the Ministry of Health and Social Security has announced that it intends to continue the payment of the maternity bonus (matkapital) for second and subsequent children until at least 2023.

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Meanwhile, in the Bashkiriya region payments of 300,000 roubles ($4,800) will be made to first-time mothers in low-income families where both parents are under the age of 35, following a 5.5 percent fall in the number of births in the region in 2016.

It is not just governments that are targeting female employees: several multinationals have recently introduced enhanced maternity packages, including Danone and PepsiCo.

PepsiCo ANZ has increased paid parental leave from 12 to 16 weeks, and paid leave for secondary carers from one to two weeks. Danone has gone much further: on International Women’s Day, it announced a new global parental leave policy, to be rolled out by 2020.

The policy will provide paid parental leave of 18 weeks to primary caregivers, 14 weeks’ paid adoption leave, and 10 days of paid parental leave for secondary caregivers.

In addition it will provide pre-natal support in terms of nutritional advice and time off for maternity appointments. It promises support for caregivers to return to work with equal opportunities.