The nation’s aging population, increases in demand for family members to care for loved ones, and gender gaps in labor force participation are powerful forces aligning to make time for family care and serious personal medical issues essential components of any national paid family and medical leave plan. These are some of the findings of a new report released today, following the inclusion of a very limited paid parental leave proposal in the Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal, and one week after a bipartisan group of scholars came together for the first time ever to announce core paid leave principles.
The report, Our Aging, Caring Nation: Why a U.S. Paid Leave Plan Must Provide More Than Time to Care for New Children, was prepared by the National Partnership for Women & Families. The group analyzed research on the health, financial and economic effects of paid leave policies, along with demographic and labor force data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The analysis highlights the significant deficiencies of public policy proposals for paid leave that exclude certain types of care, and specific states in which providing for family care and serious personal medical needs would be especially important.
“Meeting the needs of parents caring for new children is critically important and must be part of any national paid leave plan, but it is wholly insufficient on its own,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership. “More than three in four people who take leave in this country do so to recover from serious illnesses or injuries, or to care for a seriously ill or injured parent, spouse, child or relative. Our analysis shows that no paid leave plan that leaves these people behind and ignores years of research will come close to addressing the needs of workers, families, businesses and our economy.”
According to the analysis, there are strong health, financial and economic imperatives for a national paid leave policy that includes parental leave, family care leave and personal medical leave. However, some states would benefit more than others from an inclusive policy, based on several key indicators. State-by-state findings include:
- Low birth rates in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia make access to parental leave especially important for these states’ economies, care needs and future finances.
- About one in five adults provide unpaid family care in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, making paid leave for family care critical for them, their families and these states.
- Older and more rapidly aging populations and workforces in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia mean these states would be especially poorly served by paid leave plans that exclude family care and personal medical leave.
- Higher shares of workers ages 55 and older in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia mean paid medical leave could help bolster these states’ labor forces.
- And women’s low labor force participation compared to men’s – overall, at reproductive age, and at prime age for elder care responsibilities – in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming mean paid family and medical leave could help correct gender imbalances by helping keep women in the workforce.
“The data clearly show that any paid leave plan that excludes the millions of working people caring for family members and the increasing number of older working adults who need care isn’t the real solution the country needs,” said Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership. “Recent and growing consensus about the problem is remarkable progress, and it offers the opportunity for a real conversation about what a strong policy looks like and how we end the days when too many people in this country are struggling without basic paid family and medical leave. A plan that only offers paid parental leave just won’t do.”
Currently, just 14 percent of U.S. workers have paid family leave through their jobs and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer’s temporary disability insurance program. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid leave, but it doesn’t cover everyone and many can’t afford to take unpaid leave. More than 75 percent of those who take FMLA leave do so for family caregiving and medical reasons and not for parental leave purposes.
Our Aging, Caring Nation concludes that the best solution is a national paid family and medical leave plan that is available to all working people, applies to women and men equally, provides at least 12 weeks of leave with meaningful benefits, covers the range of well-established reasons people need family and medical leave, protects against retaliation for needing or taking leave, and is affordable for workers and employers. The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act – which is currently before Congress and modeled on programs in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and, soon, New York and the District of Columbia – would meet these criteria.
The National Partnership’s full report, including charts with data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, can be found at NationalPartnership.org/CaregivingReport. The National Partnership convenes the national coalition pushing for the FAMILY Act. Several resources are available on the coalition’s website at SupportPaidLeave.org and on the National Partnership’s website at NationalPartnership.org/theFAMILYAct.