Paid family leave is a basic benefit for workers in all but six countries in the world, and this map from The New York Times Monday shows just how much of an outlier the U.S. is in failing to provide it.
President Joe Biden proposed providing 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave as part of his “human infrastructure” bill, but negotiators looking to trim the cost have reportedly cut the duration by two-thirds. “It is down to four weeks,” Biden said last week. “And the reason it's down to four weeks is I can't get 12 weeks.”
Biden’s proposal for 12 weeks of paid leave to all U.S. workers was estimated to cost about $500 billion over 10 years. In addition to reducing the number of weeks to four, the version of the program currently under discussion limits the program to low-wage workers and ends it entirely after three or four years, cutting the cost to about $100 billion.
As the Times notes, the U.S. will still be something of an outlier if it provides just four weeks of paid leave. “Of the 185 countries that offer paid leave for new mothers, only one, Eswatini (once called Swaziland), offers fewer than four weeks,” says the Times’ Claire Cain Miller. “Of the 174 countries that offer paid leave for a personal health problem, just 26 offer four weeks or fewer.”
The global average for paid maternity leave is 29 weeks, Cain Miller says, citing data from the World Policy Analysis Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Still, a federal law requiring any sort of paid leave will mark a major change in the U.S., especially for lower-paid workers. “It's really important to understand that four weeks would still be transformational,” Kathleen Romig, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told CNBC. “It's really important to lay the foundation, and this would be a good base,” she added. “And then the idea would be either that states could top it off or that at the federal level eventually the program could be expanded.”