Other Countries Don’t Just Offer Paid Parental Leave. They Make It Work.

How do our fellow nations do what seems so impossible here?


We know that being a working mom in America is a joke, the kind of joke that makes you ugly cry in a public bathroom stall while you pump and try to compose an email on your phone at the same time. Women know that we can be fired during our maternity leaves, like Michelle Tan of Seventeen, or not hired at all lest we get pregnant and divert precious start-up dollars away from more important priorities like in-office stripper parties.

We know that, in certain states, we have a terrifying, and rising, maternal mortality rate.

Texas Is One of the Most Dangerous Places in the Developed World to Have a Baby

And we know that, should we get pregnant, the odds are overwhelming that we won’t get any kind of paid leave at all, so any time we need to spend recovering from the physical trauma of labor and delivery, let alone nurturing a newborn creature which is about as easy-to-handle and self-sustaining as a trout out of water, will come at a very real cost. As ScaryMommy’s senior editor recently put it, “we spread ourselves so thin we’re ready to dissolve.”

Other countries, from Angola to Zimbabwe, make paid leave possible! How?? What are the ups and the downs? Let’s take a look at a few other countries that, despite having way less money than America does, have their shit together.


Moms get 90 days of paid leave at 100% salary after which many of them they can take advantage of day cares on the premises, and moms without on-site childcare get an additional four weeks (albeit unpaid).

[also] the employee is entitled to time off from work, for up to 1 day a month, during pregnancy and until 15 months after delivery, to provide child care to her and her child.

The employer pays for the leave and is reimbursed by Social Security.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

New moms are entitled to one full year of paid leave. Also, the rules state that “a woman may take shorter maternity leave, however, not shorter than 42 days after delivery.”

Did you catch that? Women must take a leave of at least 42 days. Here, 25% of new moms have no choice but to limp back to work after only 2 weeks.


14 weeks, paid. Dads get 8 days, paid.


We’re not going to talk about Finland. It’s too upsetting.


Up to THREE YEARS at about 65% salary, funded by the state, plus numerous other benefits and protections. And moms who weren’t part of the FT labor force before reproducing are still entitled to a parental allowance from the state.

As an employee, you are entitled to parental leave until your child’s turns three. You are not obliged to work during this period. Your job remains open to you and your contract cannot be terminated by your employer. Parental leave can be taken by the mother and father individually or jointly. Grandparents may also be entitled to parental leave if the parent is still a minor or is in the final or penultimate year of a training course that was commenced when the young parent was still a minor. The grandparents only have a claim for periods during which neither of the child’s parents is taking up parental leave themselves.


Three months, paid.


70 days before childbirth and 56 days afterwards, paid, as well as up to three years unpaid.


18 weeks, paid for by the Government via Social Security.

The nitty gritty is kind of interesting:

In accordance with the Maternity Leave Trust Fund, launched by the government on 6 July 2015, employers will pay the equivalent of 0.3 per cent of the basic pay for every employee, irrespective of gender and age, to establish a fund from which maternity leave will be paid. Main objective of this Trust Fund is to end discrimination where employers engage more men than women to avoid the payment of wages during maternity leave.

Moms also enjoy free pre- and post-natal medical care.


Ninety-eight days, divided between late pregnancy and postpartum, paid for by Social Security. Also subsidized healthcare for her throughout the process, as well as her new baby.

South Africa

At least four months, paid for by the state. The law stipulates that “workers may not go back to work within 6 weeks after the birth unless their doctor or midwife say it is safe.” If you miscarry late or if your child isn’t born alive, you may still claim six weeks of pay.


Having worked six months, a woman is entitled to 84 days, paid. Under certain circumstances, her employer must also foot the hospital bill.


Six months at 100% pay, subsidized by Social Insurance.

In May 2013, Vietnam increased the duration its maternity leave. Female workers are now entitled to six months of maternity leave as opposed to the four months that they used to be entitled to. If a female employee has more than one child, she is also entitled to an extra 30 days for each additional child. With this increase, Vietnam’s maternity leave period is among the longest in Asia. Only five other Asian countries either meet or exceed the 14-week International Labor Organization (ILO) standard. …

Maternal subsidies may differ from company to company. However, it often times equals to the salary of two months before leaving for birth.


Women who have worked for an employer for a full year qualify for 98 days of leave at full pay. A little weirder: something called “compulsory leave” kicks in “at least 21 days before confinement.”

What can we learn from this?

  • It can be better to be a pregnant woman in Tanzania than in Texas.
  • GDP has little to do with how generous various nations are when it comes to maternity leave policy. Kazakhstan, for example, is 50th worldwide in terms of GDP, while the US is 1st. It still makes this work.
  • Lots of countries turn to their national version of Social Security to fund, or help employers fund, paid maternity leaves. For the most part, employers are not expected to handle the cost of subsidizing pregnant employees on their own.
  • In numerous countries, leave can, or sometimes must, begin while women are still pregnant. That is at worst patronizing and at best a recognition of how debilitating late-stage gestation can be. With my most recent pregnancy, I worked until the Friday before my due date because I felt like I had to. But not everybody can — and the stress, frankly, isn’t good for anyone.
  • If Angola can make paid maternity leave happen, America can.

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