Parental leave: 5 reasons U.S. lags other countries

  • Photo, file: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

    Question: How is the United States like Papua New Guinea?

    Answer: Along with the small southwestern Pacific nation -- whose GDP is roughly 0.1 percent as big as that of the U.S. -- America is one of only two countries out of 185 around the world for which data is available that doesn't offer paid maternity leave to new mothers.

    Not surprising, then, that the U.S. also ranks last among developed nations in providing government support for working parents, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    The nation that ranks first, Estonia -- whose GDP, at $22 billion, is also a fraction of our $16 trillion economy -- guarantees new moms more than two years of paid leave, while their jobs are guaranteed for nearly four years.

    Other nations with generous parental leave policies include Norway, which offers 35 weeks off at full pay; Poland, 26 weeks (100 percent pay); and Bulgaria, 32 weeks (90 percent pay).

    Read on for 5 reasons why the U.S rates so poorly on family leave policies.

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    Alain Sherter covers business and economic affairs for