Women have been increasing in the workforce because having a one family income is no longer enough; and because women enjoy and want to work. This created a need for assistance with child care, reproduction and family leave. Women who become pregnant have to take substantial time off work for regular doctor visits, the birth itself, for recovery and bonding time with the new baby. Because day care is very expensive, many women cannot afford to work full-time, keeping many single women and even women with families at the poverty level. In addition, women often have the burden of the “second shift,” taking on many of the domestic duties at home as well.
Some of the policy changes around the world that came as a result of this are parental leave and preschool provisions for children until the age of six. Germany and France were two of the first countries to offer maternity leave with Sweden being the most generous. One hundred twenty-eight countries provide paid and job protected child-birth leave (Henderson & Jeydel, 144). The way the country or state gives this benefit varies from place to place; some provide a longer leave than others. The United States for the most part does not offer paid maternity leave.
Eighty-eight countries provide allowances for families, to help with raising the children. There was only one country, the United States that provided no form of family allowances (Henderson & Jeydel, 149). According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States is the single least generous country in relation to the treatment of families. It is sad that the U.S. and Australia are the only two countries that offer no federally mandated paid leave for parents. This is a huge barrier for families and single parents rising children (Henderson & Jeydel, 151). France is one of the countries that has the most benefits for women; such as increased maternity leave for increased children and additional money for having more children. For example, receiving a child rearing benefit if they have more than two children (Henderson & Jeydel, 155).
The way the state or country attacks these problems tells you a little bit about how they value the situation. Out of all the countries studied, the United States lagged behind all others in the support and balance they give to families (Henderson & Jeydel, 157). Another issue, day care, is proved by many countries such as Germany as a public service. While many of the OECD countries provide this day care regardless of income, the U.S. only provides assistance for the abused and low-income. Because of the benefits of Sweden and France, women are able to balance family and work. Where as in the U.S., there are a large number of children at the poverty level (Henderson & Jeydel, 169). Because of the lack of assistance in the United States, many women in single and working class families cannot afford today care, unless there is a subsidized program they can participate in. Many women are forced to limit the time they work until their children begin school (Conway, 175-189). Public awareness on this issue needs to be advocated for. All people should write their representatives on this matter, go in groups to speak to legislators, and set up community awareness events in their community.
I think the United States could learn from many of the policies and practices of countries like Sweden and France. This would give us the same opportunity to work full-time and balance the lifestyles that we have to adopt in our society. I think these countries as well as the other countries in the OECD have done a far better job to address the gender differences of women and men. As for as the United States however, I feel that they have not, and they have let us down. Again, it is sad that people do not realize that by addressing these issues for women, they would be helping everyone.
Written by Lydia Long, SW Student
SJS Staff Writer
Conway, M. (2004). Women and Public Policy: A Revolution in Progress (3rd ed., pp. 175-189). N.p.: CQ Press
Henderson, S., & Jeydel, A. (2009). Women in Politics in a Global World (2nd ed., pp. 144-169). N.p.: Oxford University Press, Higher.
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