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The Embarrassing State of Parental Leave in the US

Topics: Current Events

American working parents continue to get the short end of the stick when it comes to parental leave. We’ll take a look at how this troubling reality has grave effects for parents and, especially, the US economy.

us paternal leave policy

(Photo Credit: Meagan/Flickr)

According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, the only three states in America that currently offer any sort of state-paid family leave are California, New Jersey, and, just this month, Rhode Island – the state of Washington is next on the list, but still pending legislation. On a global scale, the US is the only country, other than Papua New Guinea, to not offer or require paid maternity leave, as reported by Bloomberg

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This sad reality forces many mothers to exhaust any leftover sick or vacation leave that they may have available, or be forced to take unpaid time off to care for their children, which ends up taking away from the joy of becoming a new parent. In fact, Moms Rising reports, “Having a baby is a leading cause of ‘poverty spells’ in the U.S.,” and, what’s even more alarming is, “Paid family leave has been shown to reduce infant mortality by as much as 20 percent.” The lack of sufficient paid family leave for Americans is, really, no joking matter.

Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress collaborated on a report, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, that explains that the case for paid leave is much more than providing women with the needed time off to be successful mothers, but it’s also “a call to the nation to modernize its relationship with women in order not only to strengthen our economy, but also to make it work better for everyone.” NY Daily News cites The Shriver Report, pointing out that, “[O]nly 12 percent of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave through their job, and fewer than 40 percent of workers have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided temporary disability insurance.”

How are working mothers (and fathers, for that matter) expected to thrive in life if their nation isn’t even bothering to provide them with the resources necessary to survive as parents? Considering that women are earning more degrees than men, comprise half of the workforce, and make up roughly “two-thirds of the primary or co-breadwinners,” Shriver was absolutely right as she states in The Shriver Report, “Leave out the women, and you don’t have a full and robust economy. Lead with the women, and you do.”

Hopefully soon, the US will provide similar parental leave options for its citizens as other industrialized, superpower nations have been doing for ages now. For more insight into what America needs to do to better support working parents, check out this post, here.

Tell Us What You Think

Did you sacrifice your career to raise your child/children? If so, would a supportive parental leave policy have made a difference in your decision to stay home? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section below.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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