With all the talk about the dismal state of maternity leave policies in the U.S., men often get left behind. That’s too bad, because better paternity leave policies would benefit everyone in the country, from the kids who will make up the workforce of the future to the childless folks who are toiling away today.
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1. It’s good for the economy.
“While paid paternity leave may feel like an unexpected gift, the biggest beneficiaries aren’t men, or even babies,” writes Liza Mundy at The Atlantic. “In the long run, the true beneficiaries of paternity leave are women, and the companies and nations that benefit when women advance.”
Sound like a stretch? Mundy points out that the World Economic Forum’s recent report on the gender gap showed that countries who help women’s careers also have the world’s strongest economies.
Some, like Sweden, have solved the problem of men not taking their paternity leave by making it mandatory, in a way — men don’t have to take their leave, but if they don’t, their female partners can’t take it instead. As a result, men take 24 percent of parental leave.
2. It’s good for the family’s bottom line.
When women are forced to take the majority of family-related leave, paid or unpaid, their paychecks take a hit.
“In the short term, a lack of paid parental leave means that family income takes a harsh blow when a new child arrives and new parents must cut back on goods and services in the private-sector economy,” writes Ann O’Leary at The Center for American Progress. “Two-parent families typically need the income of both parents, and single parents have no one else to rely on. Women’s earnings are increasingly important to family well-being.”
3. It could promote better work-life balance.
Ever notice that when we talk about work-life balance, we’re generally talking about women? That’s because most of the burden of juggling career and family seems to fall on women instead of men. If men were encouraged to do half of the childcare from the beginning, companies might be forced to make other accommodations for working parents, such as flexible schedules and policies that discourage working around the clock after hours. And that’s good for everyone.
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