We are the only industrialized country that doesn’t have paid maternity leave. This is a big deal. We know that many women can’t afford to leave their jobs and not have any income coming in. And we know that many women are concerned that if they take the time they need, their jobs may not be there when they are ready to come back.
One of the reasons why women earn less than men is because they take time out–much more than six months–to care for a young child. And then they may have a second child and take out still more time. The data show that throughout their work lives women are penalized in terms of salary for having left the labor force when their children were young. If we had paid maternity leave with a guarantee of their job being held for them, many more women would come back after six months and continue to accrue job experience.
The United States is the only country among 37 developed nations that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave.