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New York, NY – Abortion, contraception and equal pay for women have come up so far in the debates between President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney. Not yet discussed is why America lags behind many other nations in providing paid leave for parents of newborn children. The case for paid care leave, which is made in a new book co-authored by Susan Muenchow, is not likely to come up in debate number three, she says, nor is legislation pending in Congress likely to advance soon.
“This has really been one of the victims of a very partisan Congress.”
She backs a proposal for a three-month, publicly-supported paid leave, supplemented by three months of job-protected leave and a two-week “use it or lose it” bonus to encourage fathers to take part in the leave. She says the cost is low, and the projected savings are substantial. Studies have shown, she says, the long-term benefits from time off with babies include enhancement of children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.
Muenchow says it’s not surprising that the presidential campaign has not focused on paid care leave.
Ellen Bravo of the group Family Values at Work thinks it should be on the table.
“Instead of telling us how much a candidate loves his mother, we’d much rather hear, ‘Okay, what will you do to make sure that mothers and fathers can be good parents when they have a new child?’”
Dana Friedman of the Early Years Institute points to California and New Jersey, which she says have initiated paid care leave plans that defy skeptics who claim it will burden businesses.
“Romney and Obama have not addressed the paid leave issue. As much as they might want women and children to get supports, they don’t want to put another mandate on business. As it turns out, California and New Jersey – they have found that the cost to employers is very nominal.”
The third debate is scheduled to address only foreign policy issues.