The Santa Clara
February 22, 2017
For a country that centers itself around family values, the United States has fallen strikingly behind most nations in paid family leave for new parents.
Out of 185 countries listed by the International Labor Organization (ILO), only three countries do not have a federal law that ensures paid leave for new parents.
One of these three countries is the U.S.
While paid parental leave exists in the U.S., it is a company’s choice whether or not to provide it.
Many countries have implemented laws mandating up to a year of paid leave for both parents.
In Estonia, parents receive more than a year and a half of paid family leave. While this is an exceptional example, it is a sign of what it possible in the U.S.
It is clear that maternity leave is vital for both the baby and the mother.
Research has shown that mothers that receive paid maternity leave are less likely to have postpartum depression and have better health overall.
Additionally, the babies tend to have better health and lower rates of infant mortality. Infants also have higher rates of breastfeeding and immunization.
While maternity leave is often accepted in the U.S., paid leave for the father is often out of the question.
However, newborns take a lot of time and attention. You cannot simply leave a baby by themselves from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the time that many parents are at work.
By giving both parents paid leave, their attention can be on their new child and caring for the baby in a way that will most benefit everyone.
In the U.S., the idea of individualism has prevailed over community values that are present in other countries.
For example, France offers free universal public preschool for children starting at two-and-a-half years old.
While this leads to innovation and hard work, it also neglects to recognize that doing everything yourself is not always possible.
This is the case with raising a child. Parents should not be expected to work full time jobs while caring for their newborns.
If they chose to stay at home, they are losing money, which could be detrimental to raising a child.
In order for paid parental leave to become a law in the U.S., there must be a shift in mindsets. Raising a newborn should be seen as a full-time job in and of itself.
If a child is born into a two-parent household, then both these parents should be given the chance to care for the child.
The parents who raise the baby are shaping who they will become in the future, essentially shaping the next generation.
This is important work that should not be taken lightly.
Many cities, and even some states, have seen the need for paid parental leave and have implemented it themselves.
Last April, San Francisco passed a law to provide six weeks of full-paid leave for all new parents.
California has followed San Francisco’s lead with new legislation taking effect in 2018.
Signed by Governor Jerry Brown, this new legislation will provide parents with 60 percent of their salary while on leave, if they earn up to $108,000 annually. Parents making close to minimum wage will receive 70 percent of their salary.
In Washington D.C., a bill is being introduced into Congress that will provide eight weeks of paid family leave for private-sector works—more than what is offered in other states. It is expected to receive little opposition from both parties.
New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only other states that have implemented parental leave laws, offering up to six weeks and four weeks of partially paid leave respectively.
These states are commendable for providing paid family leave, but it is not enough. As other nations have shown, it is possible and necessary to create federal law mandating paid family leave.
This should not be a city issue or a state issue, but rather the U.S. as a country must move forward with parental leave.
The GOP has constantly taken a stance against Planned Parenthood and the threat of this organization losing funding is greater than ever.
If the current administration wishes to take away affordable care, such as Planned Parenthood, that provides parents with contraceptives, family planning and alternative options during pregnancy, then the government must recognize its responsibility to provide paid parental leave after these parents have a child.
When politicians speak about the importance of upholding America’s family values, they must recognize that paid parental leave is the epitome of family values.
Providing all parents, despite income or job type, with the opportunity to care for their newborn child without sacrificing their paycheck should not be a question. It should be expected.
Veronica Marquez is a sophomore communication and ethnic studies major.