The Short of It
Recently, the U.S. Labor Department gave grants to states to expand paid family/maternity leave. The money came from the department's Women's Bureau. In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama argued that paid leave and childcare are not just women's issues. They're everyone's issues.
"It's time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women's issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. It's often an economic necessity today for both parents in a household to work," he said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71 percent of women with children at home work, but the percentage of women in the U.S. workforce is declining because the high price of childcare and the desire to spend more time with their newborns forces many women to choose between going to work and being a mom, so they quit.
While other countries provide support for working families, the United States doesn't. According to a survey released earlier this year by the United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO), the United States is the only country in the developed world that doesn't require mandatory paid maternity leave for parents. Britain gives new moms 52 weeks paid leave; Italy gives 22 paid weeks; and Japan gives 14 paid weeks.
Obama is joining the ranks of other high-profile people speaking up for paid maternity leave, which include YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who wrote an Op-Ed piece last month for the Wall Street Journal detailing why "maternity leave is good for business."
Obama said the government would provide $2.2 billion to reimburse states for paid family leave programs and called for Congress to pass a bill that would enable workers to earn seven paid sick days. The plan also included creating more childcare and giving families a childcare tax cut of up to $3,000 per child per year.
It may not be the 52 weeks paid family leave they have in Britain, but it's a start.
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