How The Zero Weeks Of Paid Maternity Leave In The U.S. Compare Globally


Written by Amanda Peterson Beadle

Out of 178 nations, the U.S. is one of three that does not offer paid maternity leave benefits, let alone paid leave for fathers, which more than 50 of these nations offer. Here’s how the U.S. stacks up to 14 other countries:

In comparison, Canada and Norway offer generous benefits that can be shared between the father and mother, France offers about four months, and even Mexico and Pakistan are among the nations offer 12 weeks paid leave for mothers.

American women are offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which exempts companies with fewer than 50 paid employees, but in 2011, only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public workers reported that they had access to paid maternity leave through their employer. And for first-time mothers, only about half can take paid leave when they give birth.

At the same time that working women in the U.S. lack a benefit widely available across the globe, almost 50 percent of families had two working parents in 2010, and 26 percent of households were headed by single parents. Without guaranteed paid maternity leave, many of these working women face significant financial hardship by having to choose between their paycheck and their families.

Women are forced to put their careers and financial future at risk simply because they want to have children. During their pregnancy, they face being fired unfairly or not being able to properly care for themselves. They should not have to worry about making ends meet without paid maternity leave on top of that.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


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Lynn W.
Lynn Waters4 years ago

What about Australia - cant forget the lucky country. 18 weeks maternity leave, paid at the basic wage. Paternity leave too or the father can take all or part of the 18 weeks and the mother take the rest.

Marilyn J Leger
Marilyn J L.4 years ago

I'll tell you what ... Let's nobody have children -- it's such a selfish thing to do. How dare any parent expect any time off from work to care for the child in the first few weeks. And any woman who wants a career? Or any couple that might need 2 paychecks so they can have a home in a good school district? How dare they have have a child if the mother can't quit or doesn't choose to quit work. Of course, in 20 or 30 years this is going to leave society in one heck of a mess, don't you think? Children are a society's future. We owe it to ourselves and to our own children to ensure ALL children get a good start ... and that means Mom-time to get started.

Marilyn J Leger
Marilyn J L.4 years ago

Nancy --
Von C's statements weren't even valid in the 1970s. When were they ever valid? The "Ozzie & Harriet" home was only ever true for a very narrow slice of society for a very brief time span.

nancy d.
nancy B.4 years ago

Von C -
"If you choose to have children, it is entirely your choice. If you have to work to make ends meet, you probably don't need another mouth to feed. Being a mother is a full time job, if your not there to raise your children, someone else is raising them. If you aren't going to raise them, why bother? Most women could stay home to raise their own children if they wanted to, but it is really hard work to do all the things you can to cut costs. Women stopped learning all the skills needed to do this work along time ago"

What decade did you fall out of? These are statements that were made in the 70's. If you have not looked at a calendar lately this is 2012 not 1970.

nancy d.
nancy B.4 years ago

I can't believe some of the comments on this thread. They make it sound as if couples have children just to get the paid time off!!!!
In 1982 when I had my son I was allowed 6 weeks if sick time. They don't separate a female cat or dog from its babies until 8 weeks. I breastfed my son for 6 months. Since I was at work and he at day care from 6 weeks on, I pumped twice a day during my 15 minute breaks in a stall in the bathroom. This was not easy. This should not be.
I am also so tired of the comments "what about me - what will I get".

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.4 years ago

This is a tough subject I think; it’s not as easy as it sounds. There are questions to be asked:
1. Whose responsibility was it when the parents decided to have a child?
2.Did they consider if they could financially support their child and take care of it with one working parent or no working parent for a time?
3.Is it a company’s responsibility to give you time off with your baby and hire a temporary to take your place, in effect paying two people to do the job?
4.How long should maternity leave be and should it also be for the father? So another company and sometimes the same one now has another employee it must pay while on leave and another to take his place.
5.So as not to create resentment from other employees what do you offer those who can’t or don’t want to become pregnant?

We are constantly talking about choices and having the freedom to exercise them, but what about the responsibility that goes along with that. Ms. Beadle writes, "Without guaranteed paid maternity leave, many of these working women face significant financial hardship…” Where is the family’s responsibility to take care of a situation that they created via their choices? I am really playing devil’s advocate here because I do think this is a tough subject with not so many easy answers. On the one hand I think being an employee/employer is a partnership, but how invasive do we want that relationship into our personal lives? Are we opening that unnec

Susan Duncan
Susan Duncan4 years ago

In the interest of non-discrimination, cecily w. has the right idea. There must be comparable, fair perks for those who choose not to have children or choose to use paid time off for other purposes. Parents are not the only valuable workers, all others should receive equal consideration and perks. General "Paid Personal Leave" makes sense.

Marie W.
Marie W.4 years ago

USA is the largest 3rd world country .. thanks to conservative religious thinking. All those other countries are just too liberal and socialist.

Marie W.
Marie W.4 years ago

USA is the largest 3rd world country .. thanks to conservative religious thinking. All those other countries are just too liberal and socialist.

Alan G.
Alan G.4 years ago

The USA started out as a very progressive nation.

On women's suffrage they didn't lag much behind.

On child labor they lagged behind a bit but not horribly.

They banned the Trans-Atlantic slave trade fairly quickly after the UK.

But, their internal slave trade lagged far behind. and of course even after that there was segregation with which they lagged behind almost everyone but South Africa.

Now they are behind the rest of "the west" on LGBT rights, and on universal health care, and on the death penalty, the international criminal court, the banning of landmines, contraceptives and abortion...

USA, you had a lot of promise.