Among 38 nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave
Women’s labor force participation has surged in recent decades, driven largely by increases in labor force participation among women with young children, according to a new Pew Research Center report. At the same time, fathers—virtually all of whom are in the labor force—are also taking on more child care responsibilities, as fatherhood has grown to encompass far more than just bringing home the bacon.
Despite these transformations, the U.S. government support for working parents remains very limited, compared with 37 other nations, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The chart shows the number of weeks of federally-protected time off, as well as the amount of time off that is paid in full, available to employed new mothers in each country. The bars combine both maternity leave and parental leave (which is available to either a new mother or a new father).
The data do not address paid leave or other accommodations that individual employers make available to employees or guarantees provided by a few individual states.
Of the 38 countries represented, the U.S. is the only one that does not mandate any paid leave for new mothers. In comparison, Estonia offers about two years of paid leave, and Hungary and Lithuania offer one-and-a-half years or more of fully-paid leave. The median amount of fully-paid time off available to a mom for the birth of a child is about five-to-six months.
In the vast majority of countries offering paid time off, the government is footing the bill, though in some cases employers are required to pony up, as well.
Then, there’s also protected leave, which essentially allows new parents to be away from their job to care for their baby, without fear of losing that job. Along with Mexico, the U.S. offers the smallest amount of leave protection related to the birth of a child among these 38 countries—12 weeks. In the U.S., this is a result of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which was enacted in 1993, and guarantees job security for those who have been employed for at least a year, and who work for an organization with 50 or more employees.
At the other end of the spectrum, Poland, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, France and Finland offer three years or more of protection for leave related to motherhood. The median amount of protected leave for new mothers among these countries is about 13 months.
While not represented in this graphic, 25 of these countries also offer guaranteed paternity leave—leave that is specifically available for new fathers. Norway, Ireland, Iceland, Slovenia, Sweden and Germany all offer eight weeks or more of protected paternity leave, and with the exception of Ireland these countries also mandate that a portion of this time off be paid.
For the most part, though, paternity leave, where available, is more modest—in Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, South Korea, Austria and Hungary paternity leave is guaranteed for one week or less.
Gretchen Livingston is a senior researcher focusing on fertility and family demographics at Pew Research Center.