Too many statements seem to begin like this: "The United States is one of the only industrialized nations to not provide..." universal health coverage, to have a rising maternal mortality rate, and, of course, to not provide paid maternity leave.
Taking that last point about paid maternity leave, two new surveys by the Pew Research Center reveal that most people agree workers should get paid leave to take care of a baby, as well as a sick family member or themselves, the New York Times reports.
According to the surveys, 82 percent of Americans said mothers should have paid maternity leave, while 85 percent said workers should receive paid leave for their own serious health issues. (Paid leave to care for a sick family member got the backing of 67 percent of respondents.)
And yet, if support for paid leave is generally widespread—and bipartisan, to boot—why doesn’t it already exist? The problem, as the surveys show, is that people don’t agree on who should cover the cost (state governments, the federal government or employers), and whether it should be mandatory or optional for employers to provide.
While 94 percent of the survey respondents said paid leave would help families, and 65 percent said it would help the economy, only one-third of Republicans think the federal government should mandate leave, versus letting employers decide. As for Democrats, 69 percent supported a government mandate.
Another divide between Republicans and Democrats? The issue of paid paternity leave. About 81 percent of Democrats said paid leave should be available to new dads, compared to 62 percent of Republicans.
In terms of how to finance paid leave, more than two-thirds were in favor of a tax credit for employers who offered it, while just more than half supported a paid leave program financed through higher taxes on wealthy people or corporations.
So where does that leave us? Currently American workers can get 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act, though only about 60 percent are eligible. And a mere 13 percent of workers receive paid leave—a stat that favors those who earn more.
The Trump administration does have a paid leave proposal in the works, with Ivanka Trump at its helm. That proposal originally recommended six weeks of paid maternity leave (and no paternity leave), but now paternity leave is being considered. Regardless, the proposal has a ways to go and will no doubt face many obstacles along the way. Let’s just say we’re not holding our breath.