11/30/2009 09:26 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

New Study On Global Work-Family Policies Has Implications for U.S.

Last week, Jody Heymann, founding director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University, and Alison Earle, a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, published a groundbreaking book on global work-family policies. This book, "Raising the Global Floor: Dismantling the Myth that We Can't Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone," is the result of an eight-year study that examined labor laws and conditions in 190 of the world's 192 countries, including the United States. The study's findings were notable and instructive, including the following:

First, the United States was found to be lagging way behind most of the rest of the world in providing workers and their families with much needed supports or protections. In fact, according to Heymann:

  • 164 nations guarantee paid annual leave; the U.S. does not.
  • 163 nations guarantee paid sick leave; the U.S. does not.
  • 157 nations guarantee workers a day of rest each week; the U.S. does not.
  • 177 nations guarantee paid leave for new mothers; the U.S. does not.
  • 74 nations guarantee paid leave for new fathers; the U.S. does not.

Second, none of the working conditions listed above (and others examined in the study, including breastfeeding at work, leave for adult family member's needs, paid leave for family emergencies, increased pay for night work, and more) are linked with lower levels of economic competitiveness or employment. Rather, Heymann and Earle conclude, the opposite is true: these conditions are associated with increased competitiveness and employment. Heymann writes:

Of the world's 15 most competitive countries, 14 provide paid sick leave, 14 provide annual leave, 13 guarantee a weekly day of rest, 13 provide paid leave for new mothers and 12 for new fathers. Similarly, the majority of the 13 countries with consistently low unemployment rates provide paid annual leave (12), a weekly day of rest (12), paid leave for new mothers (12), paid sick leave (11) and paid leave for new fathers (9).

What does this mean for future work-family legislation here in the U.S.? Now that the major argument against such legislation has been debunked, the future of such legislation remains to be seen.