US companies offer parental leaves to attract workers
Parental leave benefits have reached a historic high in the United States, with more than half a million workers opting to stay home and care for their children in October. Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that about 600,000 employees chose to take maternity or paternity leave during this period, marking the highest monthly figure since records began in 1993.
This surge in parental leave coincided with the expiration of COVID-era childcare subsidies, creating a significant challenge for working families. The end of these subsidies, estimated to force the closure of 70,000 childcare facilities according to the Century Foundation, intensified the pressure on families relying on these services.
To address the rising costs of child care, nearly 40 percent of U.S. companies have embraced paid maternity leave, with 32 percent also offering paid paternity leave. This uptick represents a 5 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report by The Society for Human Resource Management.
Economists suggest that the lack of accessible child care has made these benefits, particularly crucial for women, who have historically been disproportionately affected by the balancing act of work and family life. Diane Swonk, an expert in the field, highlighted the importance of such benefits in retaining talent, emphasizing their role in ensuring prime-age women's continued participation in the workforce.
A recent study by Oxford Economics provided further insight, projecting that 3.3 million women would enter the labour market over the next five years. This influx could potentially contribute 0.2 percent to the U.S. economy's growth, marking a significant positive impact.
The increase in parental leave availability reflects a broader trend in the post-pandemic labour market, where employers compete for workers by enhancing benefits packages. This shift accelerated during the pandemic, aligns with a more comprehensive focus on employee welfare, including mental health, as noted by Swonk.