On International Women’s Day, working woman in the United States have a lot to be optimistic about…

American women are increasingly jumping into the workforce

According to today’s February jobs report, unemployment for women held steady at 3.4 percent.

An important economic measure in today’s report is how many people are working and looking for work (also known as the labor force participation rate). That number was 63.2 percent and represents a steady increase since 2016 driven by young women joining the labor force.

As the Wall Street Journal explains:

The share of prime-age women who are in the labor pool rose to 75.8% in the last quarter of 2018 from 73.8% three years earlier, federal data show. By contrast, for their male peers, participation climbed less than a percentage point to 89% over the same period.

Women are attracted to the current hot jobs market and the abundance of female-dominated jobs in growing industries such as nursing and social services.

Paid leave benefits could also be a factor behind more women working today.

We need policies that work for women

That is precisely why we need policymakers to propose ideas that address paid leave in this country.

We know that women take time out of the workforce to have families, but not every worker enjoys paid family time off courtesy of their employer. Only about 17 percent of workers have paid parental leave. Of those workers who don’t about 20 percent drop out of the workforce entirely and 17 percent end up on welfare.

Paid leave benefits give women the piece of mind that they can take time off to care for a new baby and not go broke.

A few states have mandated paid leave benefits some are paid for by new taxes on business or taxpayers. Democrats in Washington are pushing a new entitlement program that would stiff taxpayers with the bill.

While that helps to keep women working, it drives up employment costs and could lead to a backlash against young female workers.

At the same time, there’s an inherent unfairness in raising payroll taxes;workers who do not have children must supplement time off for those who do.

Conservatives in Washington are looking for better solutions that won’t raise taxes, won’t force mandates on employers, and won’t be a new entitlement program.

IWF has championed the idea of Social Security Earned Leave, which would be a voluntary program that allows new parents (men and women) to receive paid leave benefits in exchange for delaying receiving retirement benefits or taking a slightly smaller benefit.

This plan is gender-neutral so both mom and dad can use it. It’s budget neutral because it pays for itself. It would be targeted to low-wage workers. It would not displace the benefits private-sector companies are already providing.

Lawmakers are turning this idea into legislation. We are tracking these legislative efforts but this is an example of a common-sense solution to an important issue affecting women today. Let’s keep the momentum of women in the workforce going.