US president Donald Trump is expected (paywall) to propose a plan for federally mandated paid parental leave, as part of a White House budget to be announced tomorrow.
The policy, which calls for six weeks of paid time off for new mothers and fathers, would be a ground-breaking social program from a Republican president. But even if it were to pass—which is very much in doubt—the plan would still leave the US woefully behind of the rest of the world.
The US is the only industrialized nation without a national paid parental-leave program, and only one of eight among all 193 states in the United Nations. The others, as of 2014, are Papua New Guinea, Suriname and five tiny Pacific Island countries: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga. Currently the US requires employers to offer only unpaid leave to full-time workers, a policy it shares with New Guinea.
Passing a plan would get the US off the list of shame, but six weeks of leave would still be among the shortest durations mandated by any nation. Only Tunisia—which requires 30 days of paid leave—offers less time off (pdf). More than half of all countries offer at least 14 weeks of maternity, the minimum recommended by the UN. At the far end of the spectrum are European nations such as Norway, Macedonia and Slovakia, which offer up to nine months.
Trump’s proposal—reportedly included in the budget at the urging of his daughter Ivanka—has expanded since it was first floated during the campaign, when it was limited to just mothers. It’s expected to cost $25 billion over 10 years, funded through unemployment insurance, although the actual mechanism is unclear.
The proposal will likely face opposition in Congress from the right, which objects to any new federal mandate, as well as from the left, which says any plan should also include time off for family and medical needs. Under current law, there is no requirement that employers offer sick leave, and nearly 40% of US private-sector workers receive none.
The National Partnership for Women & Families, which was instrumental in passing the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act—the law that mandated unpaid time off—calls the Trump plan “phony and truly dangerous.” The group supports a 12-week paid-leave plan drafted by Congressional Democrats.
It took almost a decade—from 1985 to 1993—for the US to make unpaid leave a requirement. Passing one of the world’s worst paid parental-leave bills may take just as long.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized what is covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act. It requires unpaid time off for family and medical needs, not just maternity leave.