On Family Leave, Europe is On Another Planet

New Orleans  Embedded in the current wrangling in Congress over the different versions of the tax bill is a small childcare credit. Depending on the report, it’s value might be around $1000, if it survives the horsetrading. Sadly, budget and tax estimates find that the benefits for lower income families are nil. Families with income in the $100 to $250,000 range would get some benefit. This program, linked to lobbying and advocacy by Ivanka Trump, is more of a footnote for families than a foundation for a new future. On the other hand an amendment in the tax bill, affixed by a North Dakota legislator, would give families a deduction for sick leave losses if they are in a state or jurisdiction that does NOT offer a minimum paid sick leave as a matter of law, essentially helping red state residents and penalizing blue staters living in New York, California or other jurisdictions with mandatory paid sick leave provisions. At lease the childcare credit didn’t discriminate based on residents even if does gild Ivanka’s primary market.

Remember the old slogan for the World Social Forum? It was “another world is possible.” When it comes to support for families not only is there another world, but reading about debates in the European Union among its 28 member countries, on these issues they are living in another planet, not hemisphere.

Sweden is of course an outlier in this area and has been since 1974 when they first allowed couples to share parental leave. They now offer 480 days per couple, and that’s for each child so with two or three it adds up to years. The first 390 days are paid nearly 80% of their previous salary by the government funded by the taxpayers of course. 90 of the 480 days are reserved for each parent, and they can divvy up the rest as they see fit. They can also dip into the days until the child is 8 years old. Can you believe any of this?!?

Meanwhile as we nickel and dime about almost nothing and have NO paid national family leave policy, the European Union is debating how to expand their program. Currently, they allow a minimum of four months of parental leave, but, here’s the kicker, it’s unpaid and left to each member country to decide whether or not to pony anything up at all. The proposal being debated would require half of that to be paid at the same level as a country’s statutory sick pay. In the US that would mean nada, but for a country like France, that would reduce existing bennies. In Poland, women can take off four years with the first year completely paid. In the US all of this would create something along the lines of a corporate lobbyist full-on war. Spokespeople for corporate interest in the EU, quoted in The Economist, argue that the money would be better spent on increasing and upgrading child care facilities. What?

See, this is another planet when the argument is childcare centers versus paid parental leave. Are they crazy? No, in fact this isn’t socialism, but capitalism with an eye at bottom line productivity. As the business friendly, Economist, states the case, “the aim is to help women back to work after having children by making sure they can get time off when they need it.”

In Europe, they understand they need more women in the workplace. In the United States we’re still struggling with workplace harassment, no paid family leave policy, and niggling sick pay. Another world isn’t possible, it’s already happening. We’re just not part of it.