Why The U.S. Is Falling Behind When It Comes To Women In The Workforce

At Forbes, Bryce Covert highlights a new report showing that women’s participation in the U.S. workforce has essentially stagnated since 1990, allowing many developed countries to pass America by:

In 1990, women’s participation rate in the labor force was 74 percent, ranking us at number six among 22 developed countries. But in the two intervening decades, we’ve only managed to bump that up to 75.2, while the other countries shot up from about 67 percent to nearly 80 percent. We now rank at 17 on the list. On top of all of this, the gap between the rate for men and women has only come down a few percentage points in the U.S., while it plummeted from nearly 30 points for the other countries to just 13. We have just not kept up in helping more women to enter the workforce.

The researchers point to family leave policy as one of the primary reasons for the U.S.’s decline (alongside lack of public spending on child care). The U.S. is the only developed country that does not mandate paid sick leave, which can be used to care for a sick child or elderly parent, and is one of only three nations that does not mandate paid leave for new mothers:

Overall, “only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public workers reported that they had access to paid maternity leave through their employer.” 81 percent of mothers without high school diplomas receive no paid maternity leave. And it’s clearly affecting the ability of women to enter the workforce, which the rest of the world seems to have figured out. Here are more policy ideas that the U.S. could adopt to modernize work-family balance.