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Valerie Young's picture

From Your (Wo)manInWashington blog 

When the subject of paid leave comes up, someone will say: "Oh, no, we could never pay for that, it would be too expensive!!" It's the Voice of Doom, and I hear it frequently.

So often repeated, I know it by heart. It will destroy small businesses. It would push taxes over the cliff. The government is already too far in the red. So, while everyone agrees in theory that maternity leave, paternity leave, sick leave for yourself or to care for an ill family member, school leave, and breastfeeding breaks at work might possibly be a good thing, the conversation pretty much shuts down when the specter of co$t arises. We've been stuck there for decades.

No more.

Thanks to a fresh look at some hard data, that argument is officially off the table.

Would it surprise you to know that the countries with the most competitive economies and the lowest rate of unemployment are mostly the very same countries that offer paid parental leave, paid sick days, and breastfeeding breaks at work? It's true. Consider the following:

  • - Good workplace policies are not related to higher national unemployment rates.
  • - The most economically competitive nations in the world have good workplace policies.
  • - The United States has a highly competitive economy but, unlike every other top-performing country, no good workplace policies.


That's the take-away from RAISING THE GLOBAL FLOOR: Dismantling the Myth That We Can't Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone, an 8 year study comparing the labor policies of 190 countries. Labor laws establishing a worker's right to paid sick leave, and maternity or parental leave, improve the quality of jobs and allow workers to deal effectively with family obligations while maintaining their connection to employment. National leave policies and sane work schedules (no "sweat shop" hours) do not put a downward drag on a vigorous, healthy economy. The funding method varies from country to country, and usually includes minimal contributions from both employees and employers with some public sector incentives. Countries with reliable programs for child care, sick leave, and health insurance are actually attractive to companies looking for healthy workers with ample opportunity to deal realistically with the natural occurences in life, like birth, death, and illness.

So, tell the Voice of Doom to go away. The only reason we don't have real world necessities like paid time off for a child with flu, or a spouse with a health crisis, or a brand new baby, is because we have not yet made it a political priority. That's the only reason.

The pithy press release is here.

You can learn more at

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