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12 March 2013

TIME OFF WITH BABY III: Corporate Interests

After last week's poetic break from Time of with Baby: The Case for Paid Care Leave, I hope you're ready to sink your teeth into some real meat! We've talked about why parental leave for infants and babies is so important, for both families and society; what it means developmentally - emotionally and cognitively - for babies; and the societal economics in support of paid leave. Lets bite the bullet and deal with the primary enemy of paid care leave in the U.S.

Corporate lobbyists would have you believe the entire economic structure of this nation would fall under the burden of paid leave care costs. But, according to both California and our authors, Zigler, Muenchow, and Ruhm, things don't fall apart:
  • Employers benefit from paid parental leave: hiring and training costs for a new employee can be as much as 150% of the departing parent's salary.
  • Other employee costs are also lowered. For example, better maternal and child health reduce sick days and lower insurance costs (breastfed babies, for example, experience fewer infections; most day cares do not allow a child with a fever to come in).
  • Since California enacted its paid leave policies it has been found that most companies do not hire temporary workers, but divy up responsibilities between other members of the new parent's team.   Not only does this mean lower costs, but it utilizes the very reason most employees stay in a job - loyalty to supervisor and co-workers, who by the same token care about their friend who is out on leave, and know they, too, may need the support of co-workers in the future.
  • Further, it is a myth that companies will absorb all of the cost of paid parental leave. In many nations, as in California, employers' and employees', as well as state or federal funds, are aggregated to create pools from which benefits are paid, as with disability leave.
  • It's important also to mention that because of unpaid leave many women are forced into a slowed rate of career advancement and stymied earnings. Some women leave good positions because they wish to remain home with a child and find reentry to be a set-back in both position and earnings. Others are in effect, punished for having a child by lost wages, slower rate of promotions, and other ill effects.
  • Over half the nation's population earning less than they deserve and providing less than America needs slows the economy.
  • Every workplace benefits from greater diversity if only because it increases a company's chance of finding the right person for a job, creating greater stability and better productivity.
These findings paint a clear picture for me - everyone wins when families win. Which leads me to ask why so many in the United States are so fundamentally against paid care leave. Let's just try this out: is it ultimately not about our children, but about the mothers? 

The firestorm that erupted in the 2012 campaign season brought to bear a few major women's issues: 
  1. What's up with "legitimate rape"?
  2. Why did it take sooooo long to pass VAWA?
  3. And why did the GOP so vehemently oppose insurance coverage for oral contraceptives?
While these examples barely scrape the surface of the "war on women" they do point specifically to our power as creators... And to our vulnerability as creators.

I've talked about this issue before: only women can bring children into this world, but in many societies for far too long this has made us beholden to men and vulnerable to their insecurities, frustrations and need for control - over us, and what we bring forth.

Paid care leave is not only a family issue, but a women's issue. And a men's issue. When we as a society make the choice to uphold the family, we will acknowledge the essential roles of each member of the family, as well as the strengths and frailties of each member. It is in that light that we can see what a family truly is, and that we are at our best as individuals, families, coworkers, and government protectors when we accept and build on both strength and vulnerability: for that duality is our humanity.

Please leave your comments below! We'd love to hear what YOU think!

1 comment:

  1. As a society, we need to keep asking your three questions above, and keep asking, until the context improves. As we delve into American inequities that harm families, in other words, do the hard work, I so appreciate your poetry. More, please.

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