The United States is the only advanced economy in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that does not guarantee any paid family and medical leave to its entire workforce. Though 10 U.S. states and localities have currently implemented or have begun to implement programs for their residents, there is no nationwide paid family and medical leave plan that covers all workers across the country regardless of where they live or work.

As a result of this policy choice, U.S. workers, their families, and their employers often lack the resources and support they need during a family transition or health shock, including the arrival of a new child, an aging parent, a diagnosis of an illness, and personal injuries. When paid leave from work to deal with and adjust to these moments is needed but not available, workers are forced to choose between their responsibilities at home and earning a paycheck, which can have far-reaching implications for families, employers, and the broader economy.

The coronavirus pandemic and recession exacerbated these longstanding caregiving and work-life conflicts for U.S. workers. As the nation emerges from the greatest health, economic, and caregiving crises in a generation, though, policymakers preparing for the post-pandemic economy are proposing investments in U.S. physical and caregiving infrastructure—including paid family and medical leave, child care, and home-based health services. Inequities in the recovery from the coronavirus recession point to the importance of these investments. In March 2021, for instance, U.S. women’s labor force participation rate was 56.1 percent, a 33-year low, and women of color have been hit the hardest.

Read the full article about research on paid leave policies at Equitable Growth.