Among 41 nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave
In almost half of two-parent households, both parents now work full-time, and in 40% of all families with children, the mother is the sole or primary breadwinner. At the same time, fathers – virtually all of whom are in the labor force – are 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. is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The smallest amount of paid leave required in any of the other 40 nations is about two months.
In comparison, Estonia offers more than a year and a half of paid leave to new parents – by far the highest benefit mandated by any of the countries represented. A number of other countries – Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Lithuania, Austria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Norway and Slovakia – offer over a year’s worth of paid leave, as well.
The total amount of leave available to new parents can be comprised of several types of leave: maternity leave, available to mothers around the time of a birth or adoption; paternity leave, available to fathers around the time of a birth or adoption; and parental leave, which is typically available after maternity or paternity leave. In some cases, parental leave is allocated for mothers only or for fathers only. In other cases, it is available to either parent.
In 19 of 41 countries, the majority of all paid leave available is allocated for maternity leave. In fact, in six countries – Cyprus, Israel, Turkey, Ireland, Switzerland and New Zealand – maternity leave accounts for all available paid leave related to the birth or care of a child. No leave is available for new fathers.
While paid leave is dominated by leave for mothers, leave earmarked specifically for fathers is now available in 31 of the 41 countries represented in the data. In most cases, the amount of paid leave specifically for fathers is relatively modest – about two weeks or less. However, there are a handful of exceptions. In Japan, almost half of all of the available paid leave for new parents – 30 weeks – is earmarked for new fathers; and in Korea, men are allotted the equivalent of about 16 weeks of paid leave. Portugal, Norway, Luxembourg and Iceland are also relatively generous in this regard, mandating about two months of leave or more for new dads.
These estimates are based upon a “full-rate equivalent.” This measure is calculated by the OECD as the total number of weeks of any paid leave available to a new parent, multiplied by the average rate of earnings reimbursement for those weeks of leave. (While many countries reimburse about 100% of average earnings, particularly for maternity leave, in other paid leave situations, less than 30% of average earnings are reimbursed.)
In most countries, a social-security-type system is used to fund the paid time off, though in a small share of cases, the employer also foots part of the bill, as well. It’s important to note that while the U.S. is the only country that does not have a national paid leave mandate, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have state-mandated paid leave plans in place. Some businesses across the U.S. offer paid family leave to their employees without being required to do so, as well.
Note: This is an updated version of a post originally published on Dec. 12, 2013.
Gretchen Livingston is a senior researcher focusing on fertility and family demographics at Pew Research Center.