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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Left Behind: Parental Leave in the USA

I very much love and miss my stepdaughter Jen, who decamped for Europe almost a decade ago and is now a full-fledged PhD--and mother of grandson Jules. But much as I long for them to live in the States, I have to acknowledge that the US falls miserably short when it comes to support systems for family life. As Bloomberg reports, "the US and Papua New Guinea are the only nations out of 185 that don't provide or require a paid maternity leave. That lack is one reason the U.S. is falling behind other advanced countries in the share of women in the workforce." Women working in countries such as Germany (where Jen now lives; German mothers can take up to a year off from work and still receive 67 percent of their pay) and Spain surpassed the U.S. over the two decades ending in 2010.

Is there hope for the bill introduced last month in Congress that would enable workers to take a partial paid leave of up to 12 weeks for the birth or adoption of a child, and for serious health conditions affecting themselves or family members?  It took nearly 10 years' debate to get unpaid leave passed back in 1993, despite the research on how parental leave is an economic boon.  “When women have access to paid leave after the birth of the child, they are more likely to return to work, to the same employer, and at the same or higher pay level. We’re one of the only countries on the planet that doesn’t already offer this. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Bloomberg quotes Sarah Jane Glynn, associate director for women’s economic policy at the Center for American Progress:  “When women have access to paid leave after the birth of the child, they are more likely to return to work, to the same employer, and at the same or higher pay level. We’re one of the only countries on the planet that doesn’t already offer this. It’s kind of embarrassing.”  --B.B.

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