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Why the US Needs National Paid Maternity Leave

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at NMSU chapter.

The United States is one of the only developed nations that does not have paid maternity leave. Only 21% of US workers have access to paid maternity leave in the United States, and around 82% of American workers support it. So, why do we not have paid leave? 

Paid Maternity Leave: 

Maternity Leave in the United States offers 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This leaves a huge gap for United States women, who tend to be the primary takers of their children and ailing parents, and comprises half of the United States workforce. This leads a lot of women into a state of panic when they cannot get paid during these twelve weeks, leading to lots of women struggling while they are trying to recover from having a child or taking care of their family. 

This is also an issue with the number of single mothers and dual working households, leaving them struggling to find childcare, or to depend on close friends.

Maternity Leave Around The World: 

In terms of developed nations, the United States is the only country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave. Even the next highest country on the list, Ireland, offers a 2 month paid maternity leave to its workers. This is in stark comparison to Estonia, which, at the top of the list, offers 86 weeks of paid maternity leave to all of their female-identifying workers.  The US policy is worst on list of the world’s richest countries.

State Action to Change Things 

Currently, there are some actions to change the talk around paid maternity leave. As of 2020, the states of California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and the district of Washington D.C all offer former protection beyond the 12 weeks beyond FMLA. This is a great step, but this coverage is not available to the rest of the country.

Consequences of Not Having Standard Paid Maternity Leave 

Along with the known social issues of not having standard paid maternity leave, there are also economic determinants to not have national paid maternity leave.

Social Benefits: 

The social benefits of having national paid maternity leave are enormous. Mothers who are home 8 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child are less likely to develop depression and to be in better health than women who don’t have paid maternity leave. Paid maternity leave also increases the positive interactions with the children and their parents, which lead to positive attachment, empathy, and later academic success. 

Economic Benefits:

The economic benefits of having standard paid maternity leave are also to be noticed. Countries noticed a 5 percent decrease in their infant death rate, after increasing their maternity leave to 10 weeks. Another surprising statistic is that there is a 58 percent decrease in physical or emotional violence from their significant other. 

Another troubling trend is the fact that many women who make less money are less likely to have paid maternity leave, and are less likely to take maternity leave. Women who make $30,000 a year are 62% less likely to take maternity leave. This is possibly due to the fact that not many women can afford to. This is in stark contrast to women who make more than $75,000, in which only 26% of them did not take paid leave. 

Also, not taking maternity leave is likely to hurt women’s productivity in the workplace, leading to women being less likely to leave their current workplace. It also helps women become less likely to file for bankruptcy after the birth of their children. 

National paid maternity leave beyond what the policy of FMLA helps women and society greatly, leading to great financial and economic benefits to our women and children. 

Hello! I am the social media editor for NMSU Hercampus! I am currently majoring in History Secondary Education and minoring in Spanish, Music and Religious Studies.