10 facts and figures to know about maternity (and paternity) leave around the world
The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) analyzed maternity leave in 42 countries – all the countries in the top 10 were European.
What’s striking is that among the top ten of paid maternity leave (in terms of duration), the majority are Eastern European countries: Bulgaria (1st), Slovakia (4th), Croatia (5th), Czech Republic (6th), Hungary (8th), Estonia (9th ), and Poland (10th).
Not only does Bulgaria give women the most time off, they’re also on the top of the list of the best-paid maternity leaves, which results in a nearly 46 fully paid weeks off.
Within Europe payment rates are lowest in Ireland and the United Kingdom, where only around 30% of gross average are replaced by the maternity benefit. Mothers in the U.K., for example, get 52 weeks of maternity leave, but 39 of those weeks are only partially paid.
The OECD average is 18 weeks of paid maternity leave around childbirth.
Swedish parents are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave to split between mother and father as they choose – but it’s not possible to transfer more than 150 days from one parent to the other.
The least generous member of the OECD is the United States, where women get no guaranteed paid maternity leave. It’s up to employers whether they pay a leave at all and how much they offer. But state and local governments can provide alternative entitlements like, for example, in California. At the national level there is, however, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as a kind of parental leave (for men and women) providing a maximum 12-week leave. The problem is that it doesn’t apply to everyone and, while it requires the employer to maintain employees’ health benefits, it’s unpaid and comes with restrictions on who is eligible.
In terms of paid father-specific leave, Korea (52.6 weeks) and Japan (52 weeks) are ahead. But only around 2% of employed new fathers in Japan take advantage of the leave. Thus entitlements may say little about the way it is actually used; social norms and culture are strong factors.
In Singapore, working moms (regardless of their nationality) are entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave if they are covered by the Employment Act or 16 weeks of government-paid maternity leave if the child is a Singaporean citizen. Fathers (including self-employed) are entitled to two weeks of paid leave funded by the government.
Moms in South Africa are entitled to four months of maternity leave, including a month’s leave before the baby’s birth if needed, but companies are not under a legal obligation to remunerate employees during this time. Fathers, in comparison, are only allowed to take 10 days.