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Should Parents Get Paid Maternity Leave?

The United States is one of just three out of 181 nations worldwide that does not have any law requiring paid maternity leave. Not even federal employees in this country are entitled to pay while taking time off to care for a newborn. And who are the other two nations? Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.

Africana Online reports that while the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows employees to take up to 12 unpaid weeks off from work and not lose their job, many families cannot afford to be without the 12 weeks of income. Studies from the New York-based Families and Work Institute have concluded that 27 percent of private corporations offered paid maternity leave in 1998, but that this number declined to just 16 percent in 2008. There's been a trend of eliminating paid paternity leave among private companies.

Non-paid maternity leave has the potential to result in a decline of productivity and earning power loss among working women. Children can also suffer when parents have to return to work after just a short period of time.

Laws have been proposed that would provide paid maternity leave to federal employees. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has introduced the bill that would require this change every year since she was elected to Congress in 2000. Yet the bill has been criticized because it would cost an additional $938 million over five years in salaries.

Perhaps lawmakers may want to consider expanding the Family Medical Leave Act to include maternity pay, even if it costs a significant amount of money. How can we put a price on the value of parenthood and overall health of our society?

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