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Lack of Policies to Support Working Caregivers Continues to Set US Economy Back

If the U.S. invested in policies supporting caregivers and families as in other advanced economies, such as Germany and Canada, it could produce more than $775 billion in additional economic activity every year, according to new research from the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. 

Analysis published this month found that women in the U.S. still participate in the labor force at lower rates than those in Germany and Canada—two countries that have national paid leave and other family-friendly policies, as well as higher rates of public spending on policies for families and children. 

In 2015, the DOL issued the report “The Cost of Doing Nothing,” estimating the economic costs of not implementing policies that support working families. While significant progress has been made since 2015, the U.S. remains far behind peer countries on policies that support working families, public spending on care and, as a result, women’s labor force participation. 

According to the DOL, if the U.S. women’s labor force participation rate were the same as in Germany and Canada, there would be roughly 5 million more women working. 

While the U.S. has enacted some paid leave protections for federal workers and contractors, there are still no national policies guaranteeing access to paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave for the vast majority of workers, including those in the private sector. 

Women’s ability to participate in the labor force has rapidly rebounded after the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in 2022, the U.S. global ranking remained 31st out of 38 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, unchanged from 2019. When comparing women’s labor force participation rates among the 15 countries with the world’s largest GDPs per capita, the U.S. ranked last. 

The TIAA Institute also recently released a study, finding that more than 53 million Americans currently provide uncompensated care to spouses, partners, parents or children living with serious health problems or disabilities, and about 60% of these caregivers are employed outside the home. The TIAA report also found that most employers do not measure the extent of caregiving responsibilities in their workforce and greatly underestimate the business costs of their employees’ caregiving.  

In response to this issue, the administration of President Joe Biden has announced several policy proposals to support workers with caregiving responsibilities, seeking to invest more in care infrastructure, including making high-quality child care affordable and accessible; increasing funding for home and community-based care; and supporting paid leave, workplace flexibility, overtime protections and predictable scheduling, according to the DOL. 

For example, the administration issued an executive order in May on “increasing access to high-quality care and supporting caregivers,” directing agencies across the government to take concrete steps to make care more affordable, support family caregivers, improve job quality for care workers and expand care options. The administration has also called for paid sick leave for all workers and the establishment of a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program.  

“Ultimately, these changes will benefit the entire U.S. economy by investing in the millions of women who make up a significant share of the modern workforce while also caring for their loved ones,” the DOL stated. 

Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia have laws that create paid family and medical leave for eligible workers. Additionally, Hawaii has a law providing paid temporary disability leave to eligible workers, while Puerto Rico has laws providing temporary disability and maternity leave to eligible workers. Three states—New Hampshire, Vermont and Virginia—also have voluntary programs that allow some workers and employers to purchase private family or medical leave insurance.  

Source : Plan Sponsor



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