Imagine five months of paid maternity leave. We’ll let that sink in for a moment: five months of leave postpartum, paid. Would that help you return to work after having a baby?
Corporate giants like Google have realized that the cost of recruiting and training a new employee cut deeper into their pockets than lengthening maternity leave from three to five months, so five months of paid maternity leave is now the Google standard.
And it turns out these kinds of family-friendly policies are a fantastic way to retain female employees by providing job continuity. The White House agrees. A report from the White House Economic Advisers recommends mandated family paid-leave policies across the nation. The United States used to lead other countries in women’s workforce participation, but now it lags behind. Greatly behind. The United States is the only developed country that does not include paid family leave as part of its federal policy. Ouch.
As a result, women’s participation in the labor force is most definitely affected. A comparison study with six other countries found that the U.S. had the second-lowest percentage of women in the labor-force. Sweden maintains the highest percentage, while Japan has the lowest. The report also notes that other developed countries incorporated several family-friendly policies to support working moms and dads, like paid family leave, subsidized child care and support for part-time work.
On an encouraging note, there are a few states in the U.S. that have enacted family-friendly policies. California first adopted them in 2002. A study by Maya Rossin-Slater and Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University and Christopher J. Ruhm of the University of Virginia showed new mothers in California were more likely to return to work and stay, leading to higher incomes for women with small children.
A universal truth remains, however: women’s involvement in the workforce has declined the last few years and economists are encouraging family-friendly policies to give women a boost. Not only would this boost continue to strengthen the economy, it will give women more incentive to return to work sooner rather than later.