A recent Norwegian report examining the national economic impact of extended paid maternity leave has mothers crying foul all over the world. The study says there is no apparent economic incentive to extend maternity leave and that tax increases are required to cover the cost. The study further concludes that the only mothers who benefit are those living in affluent circumstances who don’t need the money anyway.
Mothers everywhere are begging to differ.
The controversial report was released by the National Bureau of Economic Research and was written by professors of economics, not mothers. It describes Norway’s history with paid extended parental leave as lasting only 18 weeks in 1977 but extending to 35 weeks today. According to the authors of the study, however, this extended leave is not necessary and may even be detrimental to national wealth.
In Norway, the government pays mothers 100 percent of their regular income during maternity leave and, when ready to return to work, they are guaranteed to return to the same or similar work. The United States is the only one of the 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries to have no such policy in place.
Ann O’Leary says the number-crunchers may have “oversimplified it a bit.” O’Leary is director of the Children and Families Program, part of California’s Center for the Next Generation. She suggests three to six months off after childbirth might be the perfect opportunity to reap the life-long benefits of full-time breastfeeding and well-baby visits. It’s also ample time for most mothers to fully recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Few, if any, long-term studies have been conducted thus far on the economic value of the mental and physical benefits of mother-child bonding at this extremely crucial time of life.
When mothers continue to earn money while building a family, the overall financial stability of the family remains solid. Mothers who enjoy paid family leave are more likely to return to jobs they value instead of opting out of the workforce entirely, staying at home forever, and collecting food stamps and other government-funded subsistence measures, according to the Rutgers University and the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Any society populated with strongly united families of sound mind and body is sure to prosper economically. Children reared by supportive, well-adjusted parents who have the economic freedom to spend quality time with them are sure to do better in school and theoretically, as working adults.
The benefits to society are there. Undeniably and abundantly. What’s missing is the economic study to quantify it.
Source: Elmer, Vickie. “The economic case against extended maternity leave.” Quartz. Atlantic Media Co. Nov. 5, 2013. Web. Nov. 21, 2013.