Map of the Day: The state of maternity leave around the world

Ah, nothing like a map of worldwide maternity leave to remind you how little the US–for all its “family values” rhetoric–actually cares about working families.

maternity leave map

Click here for larger version and here to hover over each country.

As this interactive feature from NPR shows, the US is not just the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee at least some paid maternity leave, it’s one of the only countries, period. We’re behind some 177 countries on this issue. 

NPR’s map is focused on maternity leave policies because paternity leave policies are harder to pin down. They note, “In some cases, fathers can tap into the same benefits that mothers get; in other cases they have time specifically dedicated to them; and in many countries, fathers don’t have any time allotted to them at all.” The great parental leave policies in Australia and Sweden seem like utopian dreams in the US.

They shouldn’t. In theory, feminists and “family values” conservatives should be able to unite on this issue. (Fox New’s Megyn Kelly is on the right side at least.) And some states are slowly but surely moving in the right direction–though it still looks pretty bad out there. Still, Sharon Lerner recently suggested that we might be able to pass a national paid leave law by 2019. Here’s hoping.

Update: Just noticed this map was posted while ago, but still–we should be talking about the sad state of US maternity leave all the time until it changes!

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • rob

    i humbly suggest that Canada provides up-to maximum of 104 weeks of paid maternity benefits. The payments are covered federal government and depending on the person’s job may be topped up.

  • Lars Fischer

    “NPR focused on maternity leave policies because paternity leave policies are harder to pin down” the notes for the map says. The result is that in some cases the map is rather misleading. For example, for my native Denmark, it lists “18 weeks”. This true in the sense that there’s a total of 18 weeks (4 weeks before expected birth + 14 weeks after actual birth) reserved for the mother. However, after that there’s an additional 32 weeks that the father and mother can split between them as they like.

    It’s also a bit confusing what “paid leave” means, exactly. Again, taking Denmark as an example, some employers offer full pay for 6 months, some (including all government and other public employers) offer full pay for the entire period. But the law does not demand that employers offer any salary at all. Instead, those without salary during maternity leave will receive benefits basically at the same level as unemployment benefits (82% of salary but capped at ~3000 US$/month). So, your situation depends very much on where you work. In Sweden, otoh, the system guarantees close to full salary during leave – so while the Danish and Swedish systems both guarantee about a year of leave, the “paid leave” situation in Sweden is much better.

    As for what is the feminist, left wing, or social conservative position, there’s pretty much support all around for 1 year leave. There’s a left/right split on who should pay – with the left pushing for full salary for the entire period. There’s a feminist / non-feminist split on who should take the leave. The feminist position is that it’s a problem that while men have the right to paternity leave, men take on average only a few weeks, and the number is growing slowly. There’s a (feminist) push for ear-marking 10-12 weeks of the leave period for the man only (as is the case in Sweden) – an idea that meets strong opposition from social conservatives. In other words, the feminist position here is that women should take, on average, less paternity leave.

  • Erin Hill

    In addition to the information about Canada, the data presented for NZ is also misleading.
    Paid parental leave is only 14 weeks in NZ, and there are pushes to increase that over here.
    This map, while trying to raise an important point, presents some misleading information.