Paid Family Leave Is Good for the Economy

This is the flag of Papua New Guinea, literally the only other country in the world besides the United States that does not provide some sort of paid family leave for new mothers.

This is the flag of Papua New Guinea, literally the only other country in the world besides the United States that does not provide some sort of paid family leave for new mothers.

Every week, John Oliver proves himself to be a worthy successor to Jon Stewart on Last Week Tonight. In fact, I’d argue that Oliver’s show is more valuable than Stewart’s Daily Show because of the deep-dive reportage that HBO’s commercial-free format allows.

It’s appropriate that Last Week Tonight‘s Mother’s Day episode investigated America’s lack of paid family leave. The arguments against paid family leave consist of the typical business whining about not being able to afford it. The arguments for paid family leave, aside from basic human dignity, include the fact that the only other nation that offers no protection for new mothers is Papua New Guinea.

In related news, Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a Mother’s Day video on the topic of paid family leave. It’s full of the usual campaign tropes—swelling strings, stock footage—but it’s kinda revolutionary in that it frames America’s failure to provide paid family leave as a moral outrage:

The thing that Clinton’s video doesn’t touch on is that paid family leave isn’t just a moral imperative—it’s good for the economy, too. As this (PDF) report from the National Partnership for Women and Families proves, business should be on the side of paid family leave. It would improve employee retention, workplace productivity, and global competitiveness. While Oliver’s take uses the raw edge of humor to make its point, and while Clinton’s ad frames its message in a campaign narrative, it’s important to note that if more people feel empowered to take part in the economy, the economy will grow. Businesses arguing against paid family leave are ultimately arguing against their own interests.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.