Sometimes I think people who stay in one place for long periods of time are the smartest people I know. There is wisdom to just being happy where you are.
I have been bouncing around the world over the past decade and although we are broke and exhausted, there were some advantages. You gain some serious trivial knowledge with itchy feet.
For example, the famous children’s song “Ring around the Roses” has a slightly different chorus depending on where you are from. Before “we all fall down” in the UK you use “a tissue, a tissue”; in the US you sing “ashes, ashes”; and in Canada its “a hush a, a hush a”. This got me to thinking about other differences between countries.
There is a lot of talk about the difference between maternity leave from one place to the next.
You often hear, “In France you get a whole year of maternity leave and the government pays for someone to do your laundry…in Norway both parents get two years off with full pay!…etc.”
So, here we are taking a look at the interesting variation between what countries provide for working parents after birth. Note that these are government facts and there may be differences between states, provinces, and employers with respect to topping up length and pay of parental leave.
• Canada sure got its act together in the year 2000 and expanded parental leave from 10 to 35 weeks which can be split between the two parents. This is in addition to the 15 weeks maternity leave, which means a mom can take up to 50 weeks off.
• In Canada paid parental leave is given at a rate of 55% of salary, but cannot go over $413 per week and can last for the entire 50 weeks.
• The USA and Australia are the only industrialized nations that do not provide any government sponsored paid parental leave. However, Australia fairs better providing 12 months of job-protected leave (i.e. unpaid leave). In the USA unpaid maternity leave is only 3 months but only of you are employed by a large company. Also, Australia gives a $5000 baby bonus which is paid in 13 installments every 2 weeks.
• The USA shares a bed with countries like Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland by offering no paid parental leave.
• In Norway and Sweden all working parents can take 16 months paid leave per kid (which is paid by both government and employer). Sweden goes a step further and requires 2 of the 16 months to be taken off by the parent which is not the primary care-giver. Talk about supporting bonding and equality!
• In the UK women are entitled up to 52 weeks of leave, 39 of which are paid at a percentage. Only 6 weeks are paid at 90% of salary.
• France pays 100% of your salary for 6 months post partum and allows you to take up to 2 years of unpaid leave, which can be shared with your partner.
• In France for the first few months while the mother is at home a helper is provided for child-care, cleaning, and LAUNDRY! Not only that, part of the free post-natal care is exercise training to get moms back into shape. Furthermore, moms are educated in healthy family nutrition, which may explain why their infant mortality rate is a whopping 43% lower than the USA.
• Finally, (and I am quickly becoming a Francophile) in France families with 2 kids get $430 per month for 3 years (regardless of whether mom is working)…if you have 3 kids that amount doubles.
Don’t even get me started on the differences between childcare…but I must add that in France staff who work in child day care centres rarely leave their jobs because they are well educated and have a good salary with benefits.
All day care centres are licensed and strictly regulated for the health and education of children. Not only that, child-care centres are subsidized and open 11 hours a day. Parents that need extra time are charged $1.00 per hour. School for all kids in France at age 3 is FREE and is of the best quality.
It is, however, noteworthy to keep in mind that comparing some countries is like the difference between apples and oranges. For example, the population of USA is 300 million while Canada is only 30 million. Infact the state of California has a slightly higher population than all of Canada! Obviously, it is more complex to provide benefits to a higher population.
Having said that…India and China give working women 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and 100% of their salary is given. We’re talking about countries with populations over 1 billion (albeit largely homogeneous populations when compared to USA’s colourful melting pot).
Providing adequate time and money to promote families should be at the top of any government’s priority list. After all as they say, “we are all fruit”.
Photo by Rachel Weill
About the Author (Author Profile)Deepa is an Indian born, US raised and US trained nurse and midwife. She met her Irish husband in Afghanistan while volunteering as a midwife with MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres = Doctors without Borders). She and her family (husband and 2 young daughters) recently moved to the Comox Valley from the west coast of Scotland.
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