Is the United States really priding itself on family values?

The United States is thought of as having strong family values yet many parental leave stories would tell differently. For being a leader in many aspects of development and forward thinking the United States still has no requirements for paid parental leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can provide certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year and also ensures that health benefits are kept during this time. The FMLA basically tries to make it possible for employees to keep stable their work and family obligations. Parents may take unpaid leave for having a baby which is considered a medical reason. The FMLA has requirements of time and size of a company so this benefit can’t be used by everyone. The link below shows a survey from 2012 presenting that 40% of the workforce was not eligible for FMLA coverage.
http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/survey/FMLA_Survey_factsheet.pdf
Receiving 12 weeks of parental leave sounds great but 12 weeks with no pay and all of the expenses a newborn brings could be devastating. Many times new parents cannot afford to even take leave and will use vacation and/or sick time instead. This may result in future problems if this time is needed for an actual sickness or medical issue. Some companies will offer paid leave if certain insurances are paid but those are not always voluntarily advertised. Paid parental leave is decided by each individual business. The link below is to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and it states that only 11 percent of workers were paid family leave in 2012.
http://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/paid-leave-in-private-industry-over-the-past-20-years.htm
Countries like Sweden, Finland and other European countries have some of the best parental leave policies. These European countries have paid leave, sometimes full pay, and then there is an option to take even more paid leave but at a lower rate of pay. France allows 16 weeks of full pay and also many assistance programs. France, and other European countries, has a great focus on children and preparing them for the future and this start from birth. There is a main focus on the early years of a child and the early development and education. This may seem a bit off track from gender equity and parental leave but reading from the European Union website, the link below, associates parental leave to equity and then on to early childhood education and care.
http://europa.eu/epic/countries/france/index_en.htm
Many of the countries that are leaders in gender equity and parental leave are also leaders in many education aspects. Is this a coincidence? Finland may be the “best” in all of these aspects. We all know Finland is a leader in education but it also has Kela. Kela is a Finnish government agency in charge of settling benefits but also includes helping with parental leave. Kela will pay for 4 months of leave 2 months of this being prior to even having the baby. Finland is able to do this through taxation.
If the United States really wants to pride itself on having such high family values then I think a serious look at what the rest of the world is doing is a necessity. It seems that if all but 4 countries, the U.S. being one of them, can have mandatory leave, it should be a focus of the U.S. to stay competitive and a leader in the world. From reading more about how some countries in Europe are able to provide much of parental leave as paid time it seems a fairly simple process. The United States taxes and has fees, payments, insurance and many other forms of preparing for situations and future circumstances. Some of this money should be allocated to helping make parental leave more innovative and catch up with the rest of the world.

http://www.kela.fi/web/en/maternity-allowance_how-to-claim
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/08/13/a-tale-of-two-maternity-leaves/

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3 responses to “Is the United States really priding itself on family values?

  1. Reblogged this on Organizational and Institutional Change and commented:

    Dave,
    I love your analysis on parental leave! How interesting- one of the top countries in the world leading education also having parental leave policies that help parents financially. It seems that the United States could take a few lessons from parts of Europe pertaining to this issue. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  2. Dave,
    I love your analysis on parental leave! How interesting- one of the top countries in the world leading education also having parental leave policies that help parents financially. It seems that the United States could take a few lessons from parts of Europe pertaining to this issue. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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