Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Baby steps


AMERICA could do better by its mothers. The federal government does not mandate paid maternity leave and leave is job-protected for only twelve weeks. American moms look enviously north of the border, where Canadians can receive nearly a year’s leave at about $500 a week. Kirsten Gillibrand, a senator, reckons that America’s maternity-leave system is about as generous as the one in Papua New Guinea, a country one-twentieth as rich.

Some state governments are less miserly. In 2004 California was the first state to buck the trend and mandate paid parental leave. And a new paper* from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that paid maternity leave in California makes sense—for babies, mothers and the economy.

Financed by a payroll tax on employees and paid out by state government, the Paid Family Leave (PFL) programme mandates six weeks of paid leave at 55% of usual pay, up to $1,075 a week. Thanks to that modest income Californian mothers are under less pressure to return to work as fast as possible. The programme has raised leave-taking by the average mother by over two weeks, the paper shows. Longer leave-taking...

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