Ivanka Trump has a letter in today's Wall Street Journal that is required reading for anybody interested in the issue of paid family leave.
Ms. Trump, who is responding to previous Wall Street Journal editorials on the issue, makes the case for how families benefit from paid leave and how this is a concern that is particularly pressing for women. She writes:
By now, many are familiar with the benefits of paid family leave: Healthier children and parents in more tightly bonded families, greater financial stability and stronger attachment to the labor force are among the most important. Unfortunately, those who need these benefits the most aren’t getting them; the poorest, most vulnerable workers in our society get left behind.
Currently, only 6% of workers in the bottom income quartile have access to paid family leave. Studies show that these individuals—particularly women without a college degree—are far more likely to lose or quit their jobs in the event of childbirth, resulting in a far greater cost to society over the long term.
The policy outlined in the administration’s recent budget proposal emphasizes the need for mothers and fathers to have access to paid leave to encourage both parents to share parenting responsibilities and to strive toward minimizing hiring biases. While this policy will benefit all working parents, it will have an especially positive effect for women, who are far more likely than men to leave the workforce to provide unpaid care for a child.
A 2012 study found that women who took paid family leave were more likely to be working a year after their child’s birth than those who didn’t take leave, and that women who took leave and returned to work were 39% less likely to report receiving public assistance than those who didn’t. Additionally, making it easier for new parents to return to work after the arrival of a new baby is a critical part of solving the persistent gender and minority pay gap that exists in part because of prolonged periods away from the workforce and challenges with re-entry.
We commend Ms. Trump's dedication to American families and the serious and impressive work she has done on this issue. We also join with her in recognizing the need for parents to be able to have the time they need for their children.
But we do have a concern: if the government were to create a new entitlement of paid family leave, this means that all taxpayers are on the hook.
We as a nation are already facing huge, unfunded liabilities. Programs that might sound good and beneficial end up being unsustainable. This doesn't benefit anyone, including the people for whom the programs are created.
As IWF's Carrie Lukas has observed, mandating one-size-fits all paid leave can backfire, changing employment costs and thus leaving some workers who were employed without a job. IWF has proposed "personal care accounts" as one way to deal with the need for leave. PCA's would help workers save for leave. We don't, as Carrie has said, consider them a magical solution, but they would help many workers without backfiring on low-income workers.
Ms. Trump's oped is most welcome because this issue is one of the important debates that we, as a humane society with the interests of families at the forefront, must have.