For example, check out this recent graph created by Think Progress. The United States is the only country listed that does not offer a guaranteed right of paid maternity leave from the workplace.
Ones with paler economies (Mexico, Venezuela) have it, and even a country with a much stricter, male-dominated social structure (Pakistan) guarantees that right to its women workers, too.
And there are many, many more than just those 14 countries listed on the graph that offer this basic benefit. In fact, aside from the United States, only Papua New Guinea (which has only five medical doctors for every 100,000 citizens) and Swaziland (which has a life expectancy of only 32 years) don’t guarantee this medical benefit.
That’s right – we’re one of only three countries on the planet that does not provide its citizens with a guaranteed right of paid maternity leave.
But it doesn’t stop there; 74 countries offer paid paternity leave, too, with 31 of those nations guaranteeing 14 weeks to new fathers.
We’re also notably absent from the list of 48 countries that guarantee paid time off to parents who need to care for sick children.
It gets a lot worse for U.S. workers, too; 163 countries have paid sick leave, not limited to maternity, as a basic right – but not the United States. Even though 86 percent of the population says it should be guaranteed – even 81 percent of those who self-identify as conservative – we’re still far behind the rest of the world.
Federal government employees have that right (and so does the state of Connecticut recently, due to campaigns by that state’s Working Families Party), but everyone else in the private sector is left at the mercy of their employers.
That mercy ain’t much, either – 16 percent of American workers say that they or at least one of their relatives has been punished by employers, reprimanded, or even fired because of missing work due to an illness.
In this election year, let’s keep basic labor rights included in the questions we ask candidates. Make sure they defend these rights and freedoms in the Land of the Free, and help the United States join the rest of the modern world.
And if the candidates you speak with disagree? Tell them there’s plenty of room for their kind over in Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.