The U.S. Is One Of Only 6 Countries Without Any Paid Family Leave

by Christina Marfice

If Congress passes its plan for four weeks of paid family leave, the U.S. will still lag behind all but five countries

Congress is continuing to work on a sweeping new policy package spearheaded by President Joe Biden that would create laws and allocate federal funding for much-needed social benefits — things like green energy, paid family and medical leave, subsidized childcare, and elder care. There’s just one problem: The proposed new law would be expensive to implement, and to appease certain lawmakers who aren’t OK with its price tag, pieces keep getting taken out. The paid family leave portion of the bill is now down to just four weeks. It started at 12 weeks.

If this law is passed, according to the New York Times, it will mean that new parents in the U.S. will be entitled to four weeks of paid leave from their jobs, which sounds great, until you consider that there are currently only six countries in the entire world (including the U.S.) that don’t offer any paid leave at all, and of the ones that do, there’s only one — Eswatini — that offers less than four weeks. We’re not just talking about developed countries. We’re talking about all of them. There are third-world countries with better paid leave policies than the United States.

Across the globe, the average for paid maternity leave is about 29 weeks, while the average paid paternity leave is 16 weeks. Currently, more than half the countries in the world — 107 of them — offer paid leave to new fathers as well as new mothers. Most rich countries offer much more — 20 countries, including Canada, Sweden, and Japan, offer more than a year of paid time off for new parents.

That means that even if the U.S. passes this bill, it will be far behind its peers — in fact, it will remain one of the worst countries in the world for paid leave for new parents. While four weeks is obviously better than the zero weeks that are currently mandated, it’s kind of a joke for one of the richest countries in the world to be seemingly unable to make this work, when almost the entire rest of the globe has.

“When you look at other countries, there is evidence of what people need and what’s feasible,” Jody Heymann, founding director of the policy center and a U.C.L.A. distinguished professor of public health and public affairs, told the New York Times. “And by both of those measures, 12 weeks is a modest amount, and anything less is grossly inadequate. The rest of the world, including low-income countries, have found a way to do this.”