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How 4 Weeks of U.S. Paid Leave Would Compare With the Rest of the World

  • October 25, 2021

Paid leave is part of the Democrats’ giant budget proposal, which includes other family policies like child and elder care. They are trying to cut to an amount palatable to Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose votes are needed to pass it. For paid leave, decreasing the number of weeks is a simple way to lower the price.

Some leave is better than none, researchers said, but evidence from around the world suggests that four weeks is too little to reap the full benefits.

“When you look at other countries, there is evidence of what people need and what’s feasible,” said Jody Heymann, founding director of the policy center and a U.C.L.A. distinguished professor of public health and public affairs. “And by both of those measures, 12 weeks is a modest amount, and anything less is grossly inadequate. The rest of the world, including low-income countries, have found a way to do this.”

Globally, the average paid maternity leave is 29 weeks, and the average paid paternity leave is 16 weeks, the center’s data shows.

There is one element of the paid leave proposal, however, that would put the United States at the forefront internationally: its very broad definition of family and caregiving. It would cover care for all types of loved ones, including in-laws, domestic partners and people who are the “equivalent” of family.

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