How the U.S.’s Zero Weeks of Paid Family Leave Compare to the Rest of the World

Written by Bryce Covert, Adam Peck

In the United States, new parents aren’t guaranteed any paid time off. Instead, if they have worked for a certain amount of time at a company with 50 or more employees, they are guaranteed the ability to take 12 unpaid weeks off for the arrival of a new child.

That leaves us in lonely company. Out of 185 countries, the United States is one of just three that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave, the others being Oman and Papua New Guinea. Over half of the countries that provide leave give at least 14 weeks off. Here’s how that stacks up to other countries around the globe:


Fathers are similarly not guaranteed paid time off for a new child in the United States, but 70 countries also offer paid paternity leave. Here’s how the U.S. compares to a sampling of them:


In the U.S., just 12 percent of workers have access to paid family leave through their employers. Worse, less than half of all workers are covered by unpaid leave, giving them few options when they have a new child. A quarter of women either quit their jobs or are let go when a new child arrives, and of those who get only partial pay or nothing at all, a third borrow money and/or dip into savings while 15 percent go on public assistance.

Some Americans are slightly more lucky than others: three states, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, have implemented paid family leave programs. Evidence from the first two states shows that they haven’t hurt employers. About 90 percent of California businesses say that it either had a positive impact or none on profitability, employee performance and productivity, while it helped reduce turnover, saving them an estimated $89 million each year. The majority of New Jersey businesses surveyed also said that it hasn’t hurt their finances and some saw a benefit.

Lawmakers introduced a bill in December that would guarantee that workers across the country could take paid family leave, which got a hearing on Wednesday. It would come with benefits for women, whose finances would improve; men, who would be able to spend more time with their children; kids, whose fathers would be more involved; and seniors, who could get care from family members.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Joanne Hofstetter

Another good reason I am happy to be Canadian. It is so important to bond with a newborn child, and it really should be mandatory to have a paid leave of absence.

Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush2 years ago

Can you imagine why some U.S. citizens believe that we are Number 1? That may have been the case in the past, but if you look at the statistics, currently, we are nowhere near No. 1, except in those things negative......and this graph is a perfect example.

Americans have become greedy beyond what is reasonable. Most foreign countries know us as the nation that worships _money_.

Manuela C.
Manuela C.2 years ago

It's a shame, that doesn't stimulate parenthood!

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara2 years ago

Clearly shows what the priorities in USA are: money versus family.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn

Thank you.

Val M.
Val M.2 years ago


Fi T.
Fi T.2 years ago

Nobody can survive without their family

Charles S.
Charles S.2 years ago

All U.S. citizens should get the amount of time off,with pay that the U.S. Congress gets. They work one or two days per week , when they work , and most of the time they don't accomplish anything. Their main vocation seems to be taking care of the wealthy and huge corporations, and finding money for wars all over the world, but anything for the citizens gets passed by.
Why do people who are supposed to be public servants get to work so few hours ,and the outrageous amount of paid time off, not to mention the trips we pay for?
For what the U.S. House of Representatives have done or accomplished for the last six years , they should be held in contempt of the U.S. and U.S. citizens. They are more like royalty , than public servants. I don't believe this is what our Founding Fathers intended.

Mary B.
Mary B.2 years ago

Diane don't have the courage of your convictions to post or show a profile so I don't know where you live.......Probably the don't think it is a good thing that parents are with their babies during the first few months?....As the US doesn't do anything like this, I will tell you that by the PARENT paying into Employment Insurance (probably both parents)(Canada) and then applying for leave when the child is born, accomplishes many things......parents and child have a good experience, Mom gets stronger, both parents keep their jobs and feed money back into the economy.....More than likely this couple planned this baby, know how many kids they want, and will continue to enrich that country......I wonder if YOUR parents thought it was "Breeding out of control" when they had you ?

Diane Rooney
Diane Rooney2 years ago

I am opposed to paid family leave. Why reward people for breeding in a completely overpopulated world?? 7 billion headed to 12, no water, land, fresh air. etc. Governments should reward people with tax incentives for not having children and implement mandatory one child families like China, if we have any hope of controlling overpopulation.