With jobless rates at multi-year lows in the United States and many other countries, finding talent is becoming a bigger task. Overall employment is expected to grow year on year at 0.7% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the prior decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For the country to prosper it must make competitive bids for the talent it needs. To do that, lawmakers must improve our paid leave policy and go beyond the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is good, but not paid. Millennials value paid parental leave more than earlier generations, so much so that 83% of American millennials said in Ernst & Young’s global generational survey of 9,700 people that they would be more likely to join a company offering paid leave benefits. What’s more, 38% even said they would move from the U.S. to another country with better leave policies.
A strong paid leave policy must be accessible, be inclusive of all family structures, have job protection, be affordable, have a meaningful length, and be funded.
Some states, including California and New York, already have established paid medical leave policies. I am lucky enough to live in California and have first hand experience how a strong paid leave policy empowers working families.
I took advantage of California Paid Family Leave after my first child was born. During the 12 weeks, I bonded with my baby by breastfeeding him as often and as long as possible; I also built a very good milk supply. By the time I went back to work when my little one turned 3 months old, I had two gallons of breast milk stored in my freezer.
The working environment I returned to was, unfortunately, very unfriendly to breastfeeding mothers. I went through a long, exhausting process of fighting just for a reasonable pumping space and a harassment-free office, which caused me to be stressed out with my milk drying up.
Luckily, I was able to continue exclusively breastfeeding my little one with my stored milk supply. He was exclusively breastfed till the end of six months. Experts agree that breastfeeding is baby’s best start. I wouldn’t be able to give my little one that best start without Paid Family Leave.
I eventually separate from that company after a law suit due to the hostile environment toward nursing moms. But I didn’t separate from the news industry. I’m now the research editor at Commonwealth Parenting Magazine, the undoubted leading parenting and education publication in Chinese speaking world. It is said that people don’t quit their job; they quit their boss. It is very true. People don’t leave the business; they leave the boss, the company, and even the country.
That’s exactly why we need a strong paid leave policy that goes beyond the FMLA now. If not, the U.S. will be a risk of being outbid in the global market of labor. California has more than a decade of experience with paid family leave. It’s time to expand the key protection to all the American working families.