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U.S. Big Loser When It Comes to Unpaid Maternity Leave

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What do the U.S., Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland have in common? That's easy! They're the only countries in the world that don't offer paid maternity leave. WTH?!

We might be doing well in the World Cup, but when it comes to taking care of new parents, the U.S. is one of the world's biggest losers. According to the International Labor Organization, the U.S. is the only industrialized county in the world that doesn't pay maternity leave for new parents. That's out of 195 countries.

The U.S. isn't the only country to have a "no pay" practice, though. Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland also offer no benefits. Australia used to be on the list, but the country has recently passed a law allowing for 18 weeks of paid leave at minimum wage. This latest "Down Under" policy still isn't nearly as good as the benefits available for new parents in other countries. however. Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain and 38 others all offer new parents full pay for over 14 weeks.

"Women's rights groups argue that lack of paid leave can often throw new parents into poverty, or lead many women to quit their jobs," says NPR's Jennifer Ludden. Unfortunately,  businesses are unswayed by this argument, claiming that the financial burden on companies to pay for leave could lead to lost jobs.

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Diana Landen June 21, 2010, 1:48 PM

Paid leave might increase our children’s ability to do well in school. Children of women who don’t work in the first nine months do better on tests of school readiness.

Ten Tees January 9, 2011, 9:53 AM

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