All Maternity Leave Is Not Created Equal

| March 20, 2009 | 10 Comments

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.

Shocked?

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”.

Resources:
http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/special.shtml
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-07-26-maternity-leave_x.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternity_leave
http://www.rethinkingmarxism.org/cms/node/1197


Photo by Rachel Weill

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: INSPIRED ACTION, Pregnancy

About the Author ()

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.

Comments (10)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Do feminists hate mothers and children? - Page 12 - Christian Forums | October 15, 2010
  1. Robin Rivers says:

    I was always AMAZED at the difference just between the Canadian and American medical systems when it came to maternity leave. We were in California when M was born and it was the first state in the country to pass the family leave act. Ken could take six weeks, unpaid, off. I worked for a solid company that gave me 12 weeks at 75%. Most of the moms I knew took six week at half pay, six weeks at no pay before heading back to work.

    Ken took a week, and it broke his heart to have to go back to work so shortly after the tiny person was born. Granted, now we both work at home and are raising her together. But, we had to make a HUGE lifestyle shift in order to do that.

    In terms of parenting, I think we all wonder why some parents do what they do (sometimes wonder isn’t the right word). But, whether I agree with a parenting technique or not, I have to regularly remind myself that I have no idea what that family dynamic looks like, what stressors people cope with and how different issues in life impact them. We have one child, are both work-at-home parents, are able to run our schedules – for the most part – in a way that gives us space to do things – and we have our own series of stressors, childhood issues and plain old lack of skills that make people shake their heads at us from time to time as well.

    I worry about people, question things that appear to make their lives more difficult and struggle with a few big parenting things that society throws at us and drive me bonkers.

    I absolutely don’t think I’m a flawless parent. So, in the end, all we can do is lend a hand and find support to work through the craziness that is raising humans.

  2. Robin Rivers says:

    I was always AMAZED at the difference just between the Canadian and American medical systems when it came to maternity leave. We were in California when M was born and it was the first state in the country to pass the family leave act. Ken could take six weeks, unpaid, off. I worked for a solid company that gave me 12 weeks at 75%. Most of the moms I knew took six week at half pay, six weeks at no pay before heading back to work.

    Ken took a week, and it broke his heart to have to go back to work so shortly after the tiny person was born. Granted, now we both work at home and are raising her together. But, we had to make a HUGE lifestyle shift in order to do that.

    In terms of parenting, I think we all wonder why some parents do what they do (sometimes wonder isn’t the right word). But, whether I agree with a parenting technique or not, I have to regularly remind myself that I have no idea what that family dynamic looks like, what stressors people cope with and how different issues in life impact them. We have one child, are both work-at-home parents, are able to run our schedules – for the most part – in a way that gives us space to do things – and we have our own series of stressors, childhood issues and plain old lack of skills that make people shake their heads at us from time to time as well.

    I worry about people, question things that appear to make their lives more difficult and struggle with a few big parenting things that society throws at us and drive me bonkers.

    I absolutely don’t think I’m a flawless parent. So, in the end, all we can do is lend a hand and find support to work through the craziness that is raising humans.

  3. Lindsay says:

    I thought I would offer my perspective. If a woman is self employed in Canada, there is nothing, other than saving up a wad of $$$ she can do to access the maternity leave benefits in Canada. This has been our situation with both kids and you make it work but I would also gladly have paid into EI to get access. There is much ‘talk’ about starting programs for self employed people, but I suspect that is election posturing and will not come to fruition. So when we say maternity leave in Canada, we also need to include the self employed sector which is a large chunk of families. Just thought I would pitch in.

  4. mamaonthego says:

    Quebecers fare best within Canada under the Quebe Parent’s Insurance Plan. Mother’s can apply for maternity leave benefits commencing at 36 weeks gestation. There is flexibilty, 9 months @ 75% salary or 12 months @ 70% salary. In addition to this fathers get 3 weeks paternity leave @ 75% salary or 5 weeks @ 70% salary. Makes higher taxes worth it in my book.

    I also think we are really lucky in Canada and that leave should apply to all taxpayers. You shouldn’t be disqualified if you are self-employed.

  5. Bevin says:

    I too am becoming a Francophile, Deepa! Wow, someone to help with laundry and whip you back into shape. That sounds wonderful!

    Canada is definitely up there when it comes to supporting maternity leave, but the self-employed do need to become part of that system. I’m not self-employed myself, but know many people who are. It seems that they have been left out and that is not fair. Hopefully this will be more than just talk in the near future.

    As a full-time stay at home mom, I often pinch myself to make sure I am truly doing this. I am lucky for this opportunity and try to embrace it 100%. Years ago, I would never have been a candidate for staying at home, but circumstances led me here and I love it. Like Deepa (and other moms I know), I have bits of resentment sneaking through from time to time. But no matter how crappy the day has been, I end it knowing that we spent it together, however we wanted and I didn’t miss a moment of it. I like that.

  6. Bevin says:

    I too am becoming a Francophile, Deepa! Wow, someone to help with laundry and whip you back into shape. That sounds wonderful!

    Canada is definitely up there when it comes to supporting maternity leave, but the self-employed do need to become part of that system. I’m not self-employed myself, but know many people who are. It seems that they have been left out and that is not fair. Hopefully this will be more than just talk in the near future.

    As a full-time stay at home mom, I often pinch myself to make sure I am truly doing this. I am lucky for this opportunity and try to embrace it 100%. Years ago, I would never have been a candidate for staying at home, but circumstances led me here and I love it. Like Deepa (and other moms I know), I have bits of resentment sneaking through from time to time. But no matter how crappy the day has been, I end it knowing that we spent it together, however we wanted and I didn’t miss a moment of it. I like that.

  7. I had EI maternity leave after I had my son in November 2007, and I received about $630 a month. We had moved here from Vancouver just prior to getting pregnant, and I knew I would have to work for less in Courtenay. But it really hit home when I went on my maternity leave! It was just enough to buy groceries for the three of us and pay a few bills. But I was still very thankful to have it, and Teneille and I worked on our firefly : new beginnings business plan and opened the store during that time.

    Now that I’m self-employed, I know that there’s no EI benefits coming my way anymore. So Teneille and I will support each other and we will most likely take 3 months off each if there are more babies in the future.

    Right now we both bring our boys to work with us. So we have no childcare costs, and we don’t have to worry about finding a quality daycare right now. We each only work 4 hours a day, and usually nap time coincides with each boy’s time here so it works really well for us. We have a big room in the back with a kids’ area set aside for them with fun toys, rugs, and a couch. (Little Sparrow is napping right now, which is why I’m typing this.) I used to be a nanny when I lived in Vancouver, so I would definitely lean toward nannying for childcare if I ever need it. I will admit that I’m biased against daycare, having heard many sad stories from people who were “daycare kids” and being close friends with daycare workers myself. I am the child of a stay-at-home mum, and I was lucky to have her at home until I was 10.

    I count myself as fortunate right now that I get to spend my entire day with my little guy, and also have a rewarding and fulfilling job here at the store. Four hours a day is really a great schedule for a working mama.

  8. I had EI maternity leave after I had my son in November 2007, and I received about $630 a month. We had moved here from Vancouver just prior to getting pregnant, and I knew I would have to work for less in Courtenay. But it really hit home when I went on my maternity leave! It was just enough to buy groceries for the three of us and pay a few bills. But I was still very thankful to have it, and Teneille and I worked on our firefly : new beginnings business plan and opened the store during that time.

    Now that I’m self-employed, I know that there’s no EI benefits coming my way anymore. So Teneille and I will support each other and we will most likely take 3 months off each if there are more babies in the future.

    Right now we both bring our boys to work with us. So we have no childcare costs, and we don’t have to worry about finding a quality daycare right now. We each only work 4 hours a day, and usually nap time coincides with each boy’s time here so it works really well for us. We have a big room in the back with a kids’ area set aside for them with fun toys, rugs, and a couch. (Little Sparrow is napping right now, which is why I’m typing this.) I used to be a nanny when I lived in Vancouver, so I would definitely lean toward nannying for childcare if I ever need it. I will admit that I’m biased against daycare, having heard many sad stories from people who were “daycare kids” and being close friends with daycare workers myself. I am the child of a stay-at-home mum, and I was lucky to have her at home until I was 10.

    I count myself as fortunate right now that I get to spend my entire day with my little guy, and also have a rewarding and fulfilling job here at the store. Four hours a day is really a great schedule for a working mama.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I disagree that it’s “more complex to provide benefits to a larger population.” Why would that be? Countries like Canada (where I live) pay-out benefits because our population is heavily taxed. It’s not a question of *our government* affording to pay benefits – *we* are the ones who pay into, and receive, benefits. I’m not saying that a higher tax structure is good or bad, just that that is a big part of why some countries are able to afford more and better child care than the US chooses to – it’s a choice.

Leave a Reply