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Maternity Leave: How America Is Failing Its Mothers

Mar 8 2016

There are only two countries in the world that do not guarantee paid maternity leave: The United States and Papua New Guinea. Despite the fact that the US ranks second in the world for highest GDP, while Papua New Guinea falls at 139th, working women in both countries face the same fears, often having to choose between motherhood and a career.

When the US passed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, it left many women feeling cornered. The act ensures 12 weeks of unpaid time off for full-time workers at companies with at least 50 employees—about 60 percent of the American workforce. Unfortunately, this leaves women who cannot afford the time off with no choice but to decline staying at home with their newborn, while others fear that requesting paid time off will compromise their job security.

President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum in January 2015, advancing six weeks of paid parental leave to all federal employees. With the presidential election approaching, efforts towards catching up with the rest of the world in this category are garnering attention with the hope of influencing voters' decisions. As they make their minds up, millennial women are looking to see how the candidates' stance on the issue will impact their lives and their vote.

In this episode of Ovary Action, Broadly travels to Sweden—a nation that offers 480 days of paid leave—and Papua New Guinea to compare how their policies fare against our own. Host Tracie Morrissey explores the options for new mothers with contrasting incomes, along with the policies that could improve the grim state of unpaid maternity leave in the US.

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