MATERNITY BENEFITS: US Working Moms Fare Worse
The International Labour Organization, a United Nations Agency, released a report yesterday that found the "maternity and nursing benefits given to working mothers in the United States are the least generous in the industrialized world," the Washington Post reports. The report, which reviewed maternity benefits in 152 countries, found that approximately 80% offer paid maternity leave to working mothers and "about a third of the countries permit the leaves to last for more than 14 weeks." The report also found that "[s]pecial breaks for nursing mothers also are established in ... more than 80 countries ... with about half of those nations requiring additional breaks beyond the normal rest periods."
Do-It-Yourself Maternity Plan
The only U.S. law that has mandated maternity leave is the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. Under the FMLA, workers are permitted to take up to 12 weeks of "unpaid leave for a variety of medical conditions, including childbirth. Many American women, however, work for companies that voluntarily offer their workers some paid maternity leave." F.J. Dy-Hammer, chief of the ILO's work-conditions department, called U.S. maternity leave laws "a patchwork of different kinds." The report cited other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, that offer "minimal mandated maternity leaves".
Every Mother Is A Working Mother
The report found that in most of the world "workers are compensated during their maternity leaves by the countries' social security, health insurance or disability insurance programs." According to Alfred Kahn, a Columbia University professor, the United States has a "very strong industrial lobby and weak labor unions, and it has only been recently that the country has absorbed the fact that most women are working." As a result, maternity issues such as "breast-feeding breaks have never entered the public discussion ... despite growing research on the many health benefits it provides to infants." The report predicts that "within 10 years, 80% of all women in industrialized nations will work outside the home during their child-bearing years" (Grimsley, 2/16).