Brit Fathers to Get Up To Six Months Paternity Leave
The British government is proposing up to six months’ paternity leave for fathers, three months of it paid.
Mothers already get nine months of maternity leave. The proposal would give fathers three months, and enable mothers to hand three months of their leave off to fathers. The result, however they carve it up, is that they get 12 months’ leave between them.
This is a luxury only wealthy countries can afford, which is why we don’t get anything like it in the U.S.
That’s why I’m sitting in Starbuck’s with my three-month-old son sitting beside me–thankfully asleep in his stroller at the moment–while I scratch out this post.
This is a small thing when considered against the broad canvas of issues, problems, and solutions President Obama discussed in last night’s State of the Union speech. Indeed, while we heard a lot about jobs and working families and the middle class, and even education and college, we didn’t see the kind of enlightened focus on family issues–such as parental leave–that seems routine in Europe.
The term “family values” has, thankfully, dropped from the prominence it had in American political discourse over the past couple of decades. You might think I’d favor more discussion of family values, not less. And I do, if we’re talking about parental leave, day care, preschool education, affordable college tuition, and after-school programs. If we truly valued families and children, we would have far wider access to these things, which put family values into practice.
I understand the concern that many Americans have with big government. I don’t like bureaucrats; nobody likes bureaucrats. But tax and spending cuts will never get us to paternity leave or affordable preschool education. Nobody in what’s antiseptically called “the private sector” is going to make money from affordable preschool or reduced college tuition. If government doesn’t encourage these things with real financial incentives, they won’t happen.
Putting parents back to work is now undoubtedly the single most important thing we can do for our children; poverty is devastating to kids. But as we get that under control, we should look at England’s parental leave policy and see what it might cost us and how we might be able to make it work. Obama’s proposals to make college more affordable were commendable. Anyone want to bet on whether they will happen?
I’m happy to hear politicians say they support family values. I say, show me the money.