As the self-identified party of small government that allegedly values families, life, and hard work, Republicans have been working hard to restrict progress for families and children, particularly for the ones that are not as affluent as GOP would like them to be. Subsequently, the USA, compared to other industrial nations, is among the worst in regard to protecting and improving the well-being of children and families.
The only industrial nation without parental leave policy
The USA is the only industrialized nation that does not have a paid parental leave policy mandated by law, a status-quo that reflects how little regard our conservative lawmakers have for families given that they are the ones who oppose any effort for improvement.
• Among 185 countries and territories surveyed, the USA is the only country besides Papua New Guinea that does not offer paid maternity leave.
• More than 100 countries, including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom offer 14 or more weeks of paid leave for new mothers.
• More than 50 countries guarantee paid leave for new fathers.
• The 34 members of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) provide on average 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, with an average of 13 weeks at full pay. Additional paid parental leave for fathers and mothers is available in most OECD countries.
• The UK guarantees 39 weeks of paid leave for mothers, Australia 18, and Mexico 12 weeks with 100 percent of their salary.
FMLA--even though unpaid, not all mothers and fathers qualify
Since 1993, new mothers and fathers have some rights in the USA too. Under the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA), job-protected leave of up to 12 weeks is guaranteed for both mothers and fathers, however, unpaid. Yet, FMLA still does not apply to all employees. With the exception of all public sector workers who are covered regardless of the number of workers, FMLA only covers mothers and fathers who have been full-time employees for at least 12 months at a company with more than 50 employees. Subsequently, FMLA only applies to 66.1 percent of the U.S. labor force, of which approximately half don't meet the length of service and hour-related eligibility requirements.
Infant and maternal mortality rate, child poverty
The disregard for families and subsequent lack of protective policies are also reflected in our high infant mortality rates. Among the OECD countries, the USA ranks 26 out of 29. After adjusting for differences in reporting, the US has 4.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, about twice as high as Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. For babies born at 37 weeks or later, the United States ranks last among the OECD nations. Although reasons for high infant mortality rate are complex, stress, infection, inflammation, diabetes, obesity of the mother, and differences in access to affordable quality health care along with ethnic and racial disparities are among the key determining factors for USA's ranking among the worst.
Comparable troubling patterns as in infant mortality rates are also seen in maternal mortality. Among 184 countries, the USA ranks 48, similar to Iran and Hungary, behind Turkey, Cyprus, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Lithuania. In regard to child poverty, the USA ranks 34 out of 35 OECD countries, behind other developed nations.
Worst yet to come?
Regardless, as Americans, we can rest assured that we have not seen the worst of it yet. In view of the anti-working class administration that took over in January, we can expect things for mainstream children and families to get worse, much worse.
Alev Dudek is a German-American researcher, analyst, and author of Turkish descent. As an established scholar in diversity, she served on the executive board of the International Society for Diversity Management, in Berlin, as well as the City of Kalamazoo Community Relations Board. Alev received The National Security Education Program (NSEP) award in 2014.