Press Statement
Raising the Global Floor: Unprecedented New Study Finds Family-Friendly Workplace Policies Support Jobs, Enhance Competitiveness

A major new study by researchers at Harvard and McGill Universities — the largest ever to look at working conditions worldwide — finds the United States far behind other economically successful nations in terms of adopting policies that support workers and families. The new study finds that 14 of the world’s 15 most competitive countries provide paid sick leave, 13 guarantee paid leave for new mothers, 12 provide paid leave for new fathers, 11 provide paid leave to care for children’s health needs, eight provide paid leave to care for adult family members, and seven guarantee breastfeeding breaks to nursing mothers on the job. At the federal level, the United States offers its workers none of those supports.

Raising the Global Floor: Dismantling the Myth that We Can’t Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone examines policies, protections and supports in 190 of the world’s 192 United Nations countries. It is the most extensive study ever conducted on these issues. Released today, the new book is published by Stanford University Press and written by Jody Heymann, Founding Director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University and Alison Earle, while a Research Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health. They were aided in the study by a team of international researchers who also examined the working conditions faced by 55,000 households in seven countries on five continents.

“The world’s most successful and competitive nations are providing the supports the United States lacks, without harming their competitiveness,” Heymann said. “Globally, we found that none of these working conditions are linked with lower levels of economic competitiveness or employment. There simply is no negative relationship at all between decent working conditions and competitiveness or job creation. In fact, we found that a number of these guarantees are associated with increased competitiveness. Ensuring a floor of decent working conditions is crucial for the majority of Americans. The United States lags far behind most of the 190 countries whose labor laws we examined.”

“This is a groundbreaking study that should, once and for all, put to rest all claims that providing humane family-friendly workplace policies will cost jobs or hurt our nation’s competitiveness,” said Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “Health insurance isn’t the only area where protections for Americans are lacking. We are far behind the rest of the world in guaranteeing paid sick days and many other crucial supports. In one example, all of the world’s most competitive economies except for the United States guarantee paid sick days, as do the majority of countries with the lowest unemployment rates. This book should be a call to action for Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, the Family Leave Insurance Act, the Federal Employees Paid Leave Act, and the Merkley Amendment, which would require employers to provide reasonable unpaid time for employees to pump breast milk.”

Raising the Global Floor also finds that:

  • 163 nations around the world guarantee paid sick leave; the U.S. does not.
  • 164 nations guarantee paid annual leave; the U.S. does not.
  • 177 nations guarantee paid leave for new mothers; the U.S. does not.
  • 74 nations guarantee paid leave for new fathers; the U.S. does not.
  • 48 nations guarantee paid time off to care for children’s health; the U.S. does not.
  • 157 nations guarantee workers a day of rest each week; the U.S. does not.
  • 148 nations guarantee a wage premium for mandatory overtime, including the U.S.

In the United States, legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide a minimum standard of paid sick days and paid family leave, as well as numerous other workplace supports. But many are languishing and no floor votes are currently scheduled.

The McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy has created a new website,, which serves as a gateway to international labor and work policy data, and provides the means to measure, compare and map this new data.

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About the National Partnership for Women & Families

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family.

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