Raising kids in Ukraine
Paid parental leave for mothers was a great achievement of the Soviet Union social system. Mothers were allowed to get full wage they earned before the birth of the child (100% of the average monthly earnings) until the baby turned 18 months, and then they had the option to continue raising the toddler until the age of 3 via an unpaid maternity leave.
Their job positions had to be preserved for them to return to the workforce after the maternity leave. Government’s kindergartens would take over once the child turned 3.
The ability to look after the baby for 3 years is still upheld in Ukraine today, however, it’s very different. The full wage is only paid for 18 weeks (20 weeks if the birth was via Caesarean section or in case of a birth of twins or triplets).
If the mother didn’t work, then the social payment equals 25% of the official sustenance level, Kolobok.ua reports. Such a payment amounts to 1933 hryvnia (USD 72) for 126 days of the maternity leave (444 hryvnia or $17 monthly). Clearly, one is unable to survive on such an amount for 4 months, especially with a newborn baby. This payment is called “assistance for pregnancy and childbirth”.
Thus, the Ukrainian government is now providing a financial assistance package for parents with new babies: 41,280 hryvnia in total ($1537) that is paid over 3 years. The amount is divided into the once-off payment of 10,320 hryvnia ($384) on the birth of the child, plus 860 hrvynia ($32) monthly for the next 3 years. This payment is called “assistance for a child”.
Even with this financial assistance package, the mother won’t be able to take care of herself and the newborn unless she has another source of income. She needs support from the family or the husband, often both. Employers are not very keen to pay the parental leave to female employees, with discrimination against pregnant women officially prohibited but rampant.
Who is looking after kids in Ukrainian families?
Despite all these issues, a recent poll by Segodnya.ua discovered that in 71% of families the child is looked after by the mother until the age of 3.
In nearly 14% of families grandparents look after the young kids, and 6.4% of parents send young children to a kindergarten.
Remember, Ukrainians marry early and by the age of 22 women often have 1-2 kids. Naturally, young grandmothers are full of energy and happy to assist in taking care of the little ones. Sometimes children spend the whole week with the granny and only see parents during weekends.
Further 4.7% of parents hire a nanny. It is not cheap, to have a hired help, and most families simply cannot afford it, only the affluent ones. It’s also possible if the mother’s income is much greater than the cost of a private nanny.
The father looks after kids on a paid maternity leave in 4.1% of families. It may appear low, but just remember that until recently fathers couldn’t be the caregiver for infants in Ukraine, only mothers could use this option. It’s still early stages for Ukrainian fathers opting to become full-time parents.
However, it’s a positive sign that in 1 in every 25 Ukrainian families it is the male that takes the responsibility to take care of the young child. It shows the progression towards a more equal partnership in a marriage.