President Obama has made a recent push in the last couple of weeks to remedy the unpaid maternity leave issue in the United States. This is an issue, as it is an issue about discrimination. If you are disagreeing and thinking this is just a matter of public policy or economic issues, then I encourage you to read on.
Even before getting into the policy reasons as to why or why not, it may be helpful to understand how prevalent paid maternity leave is around the world. Out of 192 countries, 163 of them mandate at least 10 weeks of paid maternity leave. The United States is the only industrialized country that does not provide for paid maternity leave. We are right in the same crowd as Suriname and Liberia. So if almost every country in the world has deemed this is a necessary and appropriate right – why haven’t we?
Why do we need legislation on this? Isn’t this intrusive?
There are a lot of times when the argument is that the free market, and/or the legislative process will take care of the needs of individual citizens. I definitely believe in a lot of cases, this is true – but in this case, the process has failed. This has been an issue for over 300 years, and it hasn’t resolved itself yet. It wasn’t even until the 1990’s that the Family Medical Leave Act was passed which provided unpaid protected time off for mothers. However, the FMLA only covers companies that have 50 or more employees. This is not a small gap, as 4.5 Million businesses in the US have less than 50 employees.
Don’t companies offer this anyhow?
I wish this were the case. Often our public perception of what companies provide is slanted by the larger companies (e.g. Fortune 500). Within the Fortune 500, 100% offer paid maternity leave. But within the united states – only 5% of businesses offer paid maternity leave.
The economic impact?
Here is the interesting element, yes there will be an economic impact. There is no way to mitigate the fact that business will have to provide several weeks of pay with no productivity. But if every other major industrial country has this as part of their expense structure, then we (by adding this expense to our economy), are not structurally putting ourselves at a disadvantage.
This is where it will seem a little philosophical, but I am convinced this is discrimination but I think the logic makes sense.
1. The human species needs to propagate for our future survival
2. The females are the only ones that can bear children
3. Females face an economic penalty for bearing children.
It seems a little too easy that men, who for years made the rules, didn’t get impacted and women did. Now there are even more progressive countries that actually realize that men are also discriminated against too – as there is a social stigma against men taking paternity leave.
What do you think?