Why We Still Don’t Have Paid Parental Leave

Photo: Thomas M. Barwick/Getty Images

Most Americans agree we should have paid leave for taking care of a baby or sick family members, reports the New York Times. They just can’t agree on the details.

The Times explains the results of two Pew Research Center surveys released today, which highlight disagreements over how to fund paid leave:

The most popular idea was a tax credit to employers who offered leave, strongly or somewhat supported by 87 percent of respondents. Next was pretax savings accounts for employees to save for leave, supported by 84 percent.
Sixty-two percent of people at least somewhat supported a government fund that employers and employees pay into — a policy used in three states. Least popular, with 60 percent support, was a government paid leave program financed through higher taxes on wealthy people or corporations.

While finding a bit more common ground about who should have it:

Most people said a paid leave policy should be available to both sexes: 81 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans. Opinions about paternity leave illustrate the shift: 82 percent of adults under 30 said new fathers should get it, and 55 percent of those over 65.

According to the data from the 8,000 people Pew surveyed, the need for paid leave was felt among people of all incomes, genders, and political affiliations: 94 percent agreed paid leave would help families. Of all the work arrangements presented to respondents, paid leave and flexible hours ranked the highest.

Despite agreement about the need for parental leave, Americans’ feelings about gender roles and the size of the government appear to be what’s getting in the way. “The feeling that policies that encourage women to be in the workforce are not in the best interest of the family is pervasive among Republicans,” Aparna Mathur of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, told the Times. “But having access to these policies is really critical for these working families who are not in a position to even choose do I go back to work or not.”

Why We Still Don’t Have Paid Parental Leave