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We compared Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s paid leave plans. (Photo: Getty Images)
Last night, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced his proposals for childcare reform and family leave that, consistent with the candidate’s favored rhetoric, “will make America great again.”
Trump is thought to have been heavily influenced to announce such policy proposals by his daughter Ivanka, who made child-care affordability and family leave a focal point of her speech when she introduced her father at the Republican National Convention in July. At that time, however, the candidate himself had yet to address the issues his daughter raised.
Trump’s rival for the presidency, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, announced her paid family leave proposals back in early January.
Below, we break down the key differences in the two candidates’ respective plans in terms of who they benefit, who pays for them, and how much paid leave we’re actually talking about.
Maternity Leave vs. Family Leave
The first major difference between the Clinton and Trump plans is whom exactly they impact. Trump’s plan calls for six weeks of paid maternity leave for mothers who do not already receive leave from their employer. Clinton’s plan, in contrast, is much more egalitarian — and gender neutral. The Democratic nominee has proposed a guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family leave that could be used for parents caring for newborns, parents caring for sick children, children caring for sick or elderly parents, or any other circumstance in which someone might need time off from work to care for a family member in some way.
The differences between a proposal for paid maternity leave and one for paid family leave are vast, not only in their economic implications, but also their social implications, especially regarding what the plans imply about each candidate’s thoughts about who, based on gender, is most responsible for parenting.
Speaking last night, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said of Trump’s plan, “We know men always want more money. What do women want? More time. And we are thrilled to finally have a president of the United States who is going to put the focus on working with women to make certain you can achieve your American dream.”
It’s worth noting here that women do, in fact, want more money — or at least to earn the same amount for equivalent work as their male peers in the workplace.
As Maya Harris, senior adviser for policy to the Clinton campaign, said in reply to hearing Trump’s proposal, “We’re not living in a Mad Men era anymore, where only women are taking care of infants. [Trump’s plan is] just completely unserious. While his plan would undercut women in the workplace, it also provides no relief to working families.”
A brief released by the Department of Labor points to the fact that while nine out of 10 fathers in the U.S. take some time off of work for the birth or adoption of a child, 70 percent of fathers take 10 days of leave or less.
Studies indicate that paternity leave has lifelong positive effects on both father and child: Dads who took two or more weeks of leave after welcoming a new child into the family were more likely to be actively involved in the care of that child nine months after its birth, and longer paternity leaves correlated to higher cognitive test scores for children later in life. And paternity leave helps mothers too: The increased use of paternity leave among fathers correlated to balancing the amount of time being spent by mothers and father on childcare and household chores — things that have been shown to allow women to participate more fully in the workforce and thus earn more. In other words, to truly change the way that mothers are able to participate in the workforce, we have to first change the way that fathers are able to access and take family leave.
Trump’s proposal, with its focus on maternity leave only, also seems to leave out not only same-sex couples but also single dads who might be the sole parent in their household.
And while we have the Family and Medical Leave Act, Trump’s plan provides no income for people taking time off to care for a sick parent.
Trump’s plan calls for the creation of dependent care savings accounts (DCSAs) so that families would be able to set aside pretax income to help pay for childcare. Total contributions to a DCSA would not exceed $2,000 a year per source (immediate family members and employers), and balances from these accounts could roll over from year to year. Trump also proposes a 50 percent match on parental contributions of up to $1,000 a year, or an extra $500 annually for qualifying parents.
Clinton has long proposed a cap of 10 percent of family income on childcare costs — while also increasing the quality of childcare available to families by increasing the wages of childcare workers through the Respect and Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators (RAISE) initiative. Clinton has also proposed scholarships of up to $1,500 annually for college students who are also parents to help make childcare more affordable and an increase of childcare on college campuses.
The current average cost of childcare in the U.S. is such that many full-time workers would need to devote their entire salaries to afford even the most basic help. Childcare costs more than rent in most places in the country. A study done by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that childcare is more expensive than in-state tuition at a four-year public college in 24 states and Washington, D.C. The report also found that childcare costs can range from just over $300 a month in rural communities to more than $1,400 in major cities, translating into median costs of approximately $4,000 to $17,000 annually, depending on where you live — figures that mean that the yearly median amount a two-parent, two-child family would need to earn to attain a modest yet adequate standard of living is just over $63,741. That figure can be as high as more than $100,000 for families in big cities.
And childcare is most expensive for young children. According to the Center for American Progress, many families pay close to $1,500 a month for childcare for two children (infant and toddler), an amount that is equivalent to eight weeks of groceries, 14 weeks of health insurance, and 24 weeks of student loan payments. And a separate report released this May by the group found that low-income families are disproportionately and systemically impacted by the high cost of childcare, finding themselves stuck in a system where they cannot get work without childcare and cannot access publicly funded childcare programs without work.
How Much Pay During Paid Leave?
The details are still hazy on how much pay will be granted to mothers using Trump’s proposed six weeks of paid maternity leave; his plan specifies six weeks of leave “through unemployment benefits.” If this means that mothers will simply receive unemployment payments for six weeks, then they would earn, at maximum, $450 a week, or $2,700 for six weeks — an amount that is about half of what the average American worker makes a week.
Clinton’s plan for 12 weeks of paid family leave would guarantee that employees who have worked a certain number of hours would earn a minimum of two-thirds of their pay up.
And How They’ll Pay For It
Trump says his plan will be paid for by eliminating fraud in unemployment insurance, an amount estimated to be approximately $3 billion a year. But as many analysts have already determined, the cost of Trump’s proposal would most likely be three times that amount.
Clinton’s plan is estimated to cost $300 billion over 10 years, an amount she says she plans on funding through, as the campaign put it, “tax reforms impacting the most fortunate.” (In other words: Those in the highest tax brackets will pay additional taxes to help fund paid family leave for all American workers.)