chapter  5
26 Pages

Work-Family Policies: The United States in International Perspective

Compared to other industrialized nations, the Uni ted States has quite meager public policies and programs for working families and a relatively well-developed set of employer-based benefits for working families. To take just one example, U.S.law does not guarantee new mothers or fathers any paid family leave, while the countries ofthe European Union all provide paid leaves of at least 14 weeks for mothers and additional parentalleave time (usually partially paid) for either mothers or fathers. American students who leam about the public policies that are available to working parents in other countries often joke that they would like to move to Sweden. This joke expresses the Americans' envy, but also their sense that public policies to support working families are foreign, exotic, and not Iikely to appear in the United States anytime soon. This intuition is probably correct, but the limited action in the public policy realm does notmean there is nothing going on in the United States.ln fact, the development of employers' "familyfriendly" policies is intimately related to American public policies for working families.