For the last eight years, researchers at the McGill University Institute of Health and Social Policy and the Harvard School of Public Health have been studying workplace conditions and protections around the world.
They looked at 190 of the 192 United Nations countries, comparing the following workplace policies:
- Paid maternity leave
- The right of mothers to breastfeed new infants during working hours
- Paid paternity leave
- Paid leave to meet personal health needs
- Leave to address family members’ health needs
- Paid annual leave
- A day of rest every week
- Overtime restrictions
- Increased pay for overtime hours
- Paid leave for family emergencies
- Discretionary leave for family needs
- Leave for family events such as marriages and funerals
- Increased pay for night work
- Restrictions on night work
Their findings are stunning.
Of the 190 countries,
- 177 nations guarantee paid maternity leave. The U.S. does not.
- 164 nations guarantee paid vacations. The U.S. does not.
- 163 nations guarantee paid sick leave. The U.S. does not.
- 157 nations guarantee workers one day a week of rest. The U.S. does not.
- 74 nations guarantee paid paternity leave. The U.S. does not.
- 48 nations guarantee paid family and medical leave. The U.S. does not.
1.6 million workers in the U.S. lack paid sick leave. Congress is currently debating guaranteeing seven days of paid sick leave to people who work in businesses with 10 or more employees. But of the 163 countries that guarantee paid sick leave, 100 of them guarantee six months a year. And 155 guarantee at least two weeks.
Jody Heymann and Allison Earle present the study findings in the book Raising the Global Floor: Dismantling the Myth That We Can’t Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone. They say that while many have argued that the U.S. cannot guarantee workers more family-friendly benefits because it would increase unemployment and undermine America’s competitiveness in the world, the data from this groundbreaking study invalidates that argument. Some nations with the best working conditions have the lowest unemployment rates. And some countries that are considered the most competitive in the world provide the best work-place protections.
You can read more about the study and see comparative maps of workplace benefits in different countries here.
And you can listen to an interview with Jody Heymann on the Diane Rehm Show here.
(If you’re interested in this subject, you’ll probably also enjoy this post about the organization Take Back Your Time.)