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This diary was born from a comment I made in an earlier She Kos diary about women, family and work (among other things)

Welcome to SheKos! SheKos is a diary series for all Kossacks to explore issues related to feminism, women's history, and equality.  We seek to find solutions within and beyond the Democratic Party to improve the lives of women -- and men -- regardless of race, sexual orientation, or economic status.  We believe that women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights.

The comment was:

Forgot to mention (6+ / 0-)

my friend in Germany. She plays in a professional orchestra. After each kid: 9 months paid leave, a couple more at half-pay, then 3 years unpaid leave. She didn't take the three years (couldn't afford it), but if she had, she'd have her job, pay, etc. right where she'd left it.

And we're grateful for 12 weeks unpaid "family leave".

by freedapeople on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:06:44 AM PST

Later that day, an e-mail arrived in my in-box from the New Hampshire Women's Lobby and Alliance. Researchers at McGill and Harvard Universities have published the results of an eight year study on working conditions worldwide. Surprise, surprise (from the e-mail. bold mine)

A major new study by researchers at Harvard and McGill Universities - the largest ever to look at working conditions worldwide - finds the United States far behind other economically successful nations in terms of adopting policies that support workers and families. The new study finds that 14 of the world's 15 most competitive countries provide paid sick leave, 13 guarantee paid leave for new mothers, 12 provide paid leave for new fathers, 11 provide paid leave to care for children's health needs, eight provide paid leave to care for adult family members, and seven guarantee breastfeeding breaks to nursing mothers on the job. At the federal level, the United States offers its workers none of those supports.

The study, called Raising the Global Floor: Adult Labour, looks at the labor policies of 190 of the 192 countries of the UN. It was written by Jody Heymann, Founding Director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University and Alison Earle, while a Research Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

from the e-mail. bold mine.

"The world's most successful and competitive nations are providing the supports the United States lacks, without harming their competitiveness," Heymann said. "Globally, we found that none of these working conditions are linked with lower levels of economic competitiveness or employment. There simply is no negative relationship at all between decent working conditions and competitiveness or job creation. In fact, we found that a number of these guarantees are associated with increased competitiveness. Ensuring a floor of decent working conditions is crucial for the majority of Americans. The United States lags far behind most of the 190 countries whose labor laws we examined."

That should be humbling. The United States lags behind most of the 190 nations in the study. Many of those nations are what we call "Third World" or "underdeveloped". Isn't the US supposed to be the "richest nation in the world", having "the highest standard of living?"

Raising the Global Floor also finds that:

   * 163 nations around the world guarantee paid sick leave; the U.S. does not.
   * 164 nations guarantee paid annual leave; 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.
   * 48 nations guarantee paid time off to care for children's health; the U.S. does not.
   * 157 nations guarantee workers a day of rest each week; the U.S. does not.
   * 148 nations guarantee a wage premium for mandatory overtime, including the U.S.

The US at least acknowledges mandatory overtime pay. But many workers work beyond forty hours a week without paid overtime because the operative word here is "mandatory". Many so-called white collar jobs have duties that cannot be carried out in the alotted work-week, but do not overtly require overtime. So there has been a steady creep in work time over the years. In many jobs, fifty, sixty--even eighty hour work weeks are not unusual. So who's taking care of the kids? Or in some households, the dog? What happens if a child is sick? Many, if not most employers do not provide compensated sick time for the worker, much less a family member. If little Johnny or Susie or Grandma gets sick--well, they have to fend for themselves.

I worked in a day care center, where at any given time one third of the children were ill. And every illness spread like wildfire, among the children, and the teachers. But the parents didn't take kindly to being asked to pick up their sick children. At best, it meant a lack of pay, at worst the loss of the job. People have to weigh a sick kid against a homeless kid. Not easy. And not something anyone in a civilized country should have to do, IMO.

Another startling thing if you go to the link to the study, is that a map shows the US is the only country in North America (that includes Mexico, folks)with no paid sick leave. The countries in the northern part of South America depicted on the map have it.

Is our collective self esteem as a nation so low we are willing to live under these conditions? What does it mean to our nation's future when at least half of our children are expected to be inpoverty during at least a portion of their childhoods? One can quibble as to what poverty is, but like the definition of pornography "I know it when I see it", it strikes at any time and is more common than our collective obsession with the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" would suggest.

Of course most of these children will be living with single mothers. Statistics have shown this to  be true. Families come in many shapes and sizes, marriages come together and fall apart for a myriad of reasons. Is fear of poverty, rather than love supposed to keep us together? Even in two parent households, there is extreme pressure for both parents to work. People work hard and spend a lot of time trying to find a way to balance work and family life. But for all the lip service to the "sanctity of family", our corporate and public policy sucks on this issue. Really bad.

And over time, this can threaten our national security a lot more than a bunch of 9th century wannabees in the hills of the Hindu Kush.

SheKos is open to your submissions.  Please email Angry Mouse at with your ideas.

Originally posted to freedapeople on Mon Dec 07, 2009 at 12:41 PM PST.

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