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With Paid Leave, Gates Foundation Says There Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing (nytimes.com)
60 points by pseudolus 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments

Something that's bugged me a long time about paid leave is the wrong group is paying it.

The company paying means the company has a strong incentive to minimize how much of it is used. They don't really receive any benefit for paying out leave, it costs them a lot, both financially and in terms of work done. It creates strong incentives to discriminate against people who might take the leave in hiring process, to subtly retaliate against people who take leave, and so on. (Yes, all those are illegal, but proving that a hiring manager is doing so is next to impossible in all but the most egregious cases)

The whole "people might not come back" thing is just another instance of the misaligned incentives. It's probably good for society if we have people raising their own children, but it's bad for the employer who is currently expected to pay leave.

We should take all of this entirely out of companies hands, run it through taxes and the government (leaving the general payout scheme unchanged). It would remove the worst of the misaligned incentives (now at least companies aren't paying someone who isn't producing value for them) and should come at minimal cost (you'd have to worry more about fraud, companies and people conspiring to get more leave than they are entitled to).

Agreed. In Canada, a woman or man can take up to 18 months of paid leave (although, if you take over 12 months, you'll be getting the same absolute amount of money but just spread over the extra months) to care for a new child. Your employer, by law, is obligated to hold your job for your return (provided that you were an FTE). The money you receive is simply collecting unemployment. It's money that the employee paid into the system, so it's hard to scoff at their right to utilize it. Like other unemployment benefits, you need to have been employed to access this money. To be competitive, some employers choose to "top up" the pay to a certain percentage of your full time wage (for some or all of your leave), but that's just a perk that employers can opt to offer.

I think this policy is entirely reasonable and entirely reasonable. The side effect is that there are often "matt-leave" openings at companies (i.e. covering for someone while they're away), which is a good way to get to know a job on a temporary basis and for employers to get to know a hire without a long term commitment.

It's better than the alternative, but still far from perfect. Unemployment benefit is supposed to provide you a safe net should your employment lapsed - so no one really expects that you would maintain the same quality of living. If push comes to shove you can and will cut all the excess (entertainment, dinning out, traveling), leaving with just bare necessities.

Now, with the parental leave, when your expenses rise (diapers, formulas, cloths, ...) you're expected to make do on the same barebone salary replacement. I've experienced this myself quite recently: I had a choice to take parental leave and get a huge pay cut, or just burn through all accumulated vacation time and get back to work early.

Currently, Service Canada web site says that "maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $53,100" - which cuts your income 3-4 fold you choose to stay at home. I think many high-earners (read: more that 53k) would rather choose to have more deductions throughout the year, but have 70-80-100% matched.

Yeah, it's definitely not a perfect system. I say this as my wife is currently on maternity leave. We've definitely adjusted our budget and had to plan accordingly.

The biggest point that I try to make when describing the system is that it's not a government handout, it's just an extension of unemployment insurance.

The idea of increasing deductions to bring up EI values seems reasonable, although I imagine it could be a hard sell for men who never intend to use it (not saying that's a reason to not do it, however I'm sure there would be opposition). An opt-in system could be better, but then that kind of goes against the idea of insurance (you'd likely only opt in if you knew you'd be needing it and it'd be advantageous to do so). I guess the argument against the idea would be "just save your money instead" which would bring us right back to where we are today.

I believe the company is less concerned with paying someone who isn't working - which is basically just a fixed cost they can absorb - than they are about the lost productivity while that person is gone. That may or may not be replaceable, and often is not for shorter time spans (say, up to a couple of months). Unfortunately, the government paying for leave wouldn't fixed that misaligned incentive.

You're right, but I don't know how to fix that part so let's fix the part we can.

The relatively severity depends on the company and employee for sure. Software vs McDonalds...

Maternity leave has the advantage of a good amount of notice, which can give time to mitigate the loss from a missing employee.

You're spot on. Most companies won't care about saving a few thousand. They want that money deployed and potentially multiplying in the form of getting something built or selling something.

If a company is not profiting from their work more than their absence, that says little for the empolyee. Training is often estimated to be nearly a year of pay in functional terms. I think you underestimate the impact of a lost employee.

Not everything a worker does provides immense leverage like software development. Many times it is 1:1 with hours worked.

Let the company include a bonus in the employment contract for every year that leave is not taken. Then leave-prone employees will self-select into companies (and lines of work) that don't bother to pay such a bonus (because they would lose a big chunk of it), while employers that do lose a lot of productivity from leave will make sure to offer it.

As a complementary approach, one that's more strictly targeted to the issues that the article talks about: offer generous family leave (12-months or more) but after the first 8 months or so, the leave becomes strictly conditional on the employee spending some time at work (less than an ordinary part-time job), focusing on "re-onboarding" and getting familiarized with what has changed in the enterprise. This ensures that the employee's time is put to the highest and best use, in that he can properly care for the kid's best long-term interests, but at the same time he's providing much-needed reassurance to relevant stakeholders that he's not overly neglecting his future career (either willingly or inadvertently).

Living in an EU country (one of the Eastern Bloc countries) where the scenario you described is the norm (the state pays the for maternity leave), I consider this to be an unethical situation/ or unfair if you want (yes, nothing in life is fair, but the laws should at least be constructed to at least seem fair on the surface).

The reason I claim it is a very unfair situation, is because it offers a significant cushion to a particular class of people (parents), paid out of the taxes of everyone, and yet there are significant minorities of people falling through the cracks. For instance, due to a malfunctioning health-sector I've seen people who break a leg outside working hours get a significant paid leave, and yet people with job-caused mental illness (e.g. burnout) lose their job, and attain NEET status, with 0 state support (for the less fortunate, this is the road to homelessness and a whole lot of other problems). Of course, due to being low status groups, their are not in a position to negociate or lobby their interests to the law-makers. This is just an example, and I know the people disadvantaged by this policy are a small minority (single males for instance), but I think the state should provide equal opportunity to everyone, and for that reason, paying a certain subgroup of people with taxes taken from everyone is an unfair proposition in my book. (Of course, in this particular Eastern Bloc country, fairness is the least of worries, most state institutions are barely functional due to widespread corruption).

Of course, if you've got a population decline problem, like many of the European countries have, then incentivising birth is too good a solution to ignore.

But I still think the most fair/correct approach is having the employer pay for the leave, and factor that into wages/hiring. It's only fair to pay more/hire someone whose potential contribution/output is higher(although I know this is a sensitive topic that's become quite a taboo recently, I think around here people are more prone to think critically than the general public).

>run it through taxes and the government

I would rather take the selfishness of a corporation instead of the apathy and incompetence of a US government bureaucracy.

You can't do that though. Incentives and institutions are what they are. If you could "take the selfishness out of a corporation" we wouldn't need government. We should design our systems for the world we have, not some idealized world that doesn't actually exist.

>"take the selfishness out of a corporation"

You literally did not read my comment. Please read it again.


I said I prefer a selfish corporation managing this instead of the incompetent US government.

Ah, sorry. Misread you.

Actually I'm sorry for my tone up there when I clarified what I wrote. My first comment had a bad structure that was easy to misread.

No worries. My brain just sort of filled in some words, maybe because I expected an antagonistic response to the original post. Crazy how that works...I even rewrote what you said in the words I invented haha.

> wrong group is paying it.

And its not necessarily employers. Its also employees. The right group to pay for paid leave is a group of 1: the parent itself.

That's an argument I doubt we'll make useful progress on over the internet.

I think there is useful societal value in having parents spend time with their kids, and I think that as a society we should absorb some of the costs to cause that to happen.

I can understand believing otherwise though - it falls back to a difference in fairly fundamental opinions about how society should function (I expect).

What I hope you can agree with is that if we are going to have paid parental leave, it should be paid for by a shared pool across companies (i.e. the government).

> What I hope you can agree with is that if we are going to have paid maternity leave, it should be paid for by a shared pool across companies (i.e. the government).

I think only if its mandatory this makes sense. But it's not (significantly) mandatory in the us.

Company Benefits have 2 economic advantages: the first is that employees might care for the benefit more than its cost, thus having less salary for the benefit. (an example might be google's plethora of in-company benefits). The second is purely taxes: high incomes get high income taxes, which means that you get a 30%+ margin on any inefficient cost a company takes.

Paid leave is a combination of distortions. In the non-salaried world, its not even a debate: people freely choose what to do and to what degree. Think about offering paid leave benefits to small businesses and see what happens to the government coffers!

My arguments basically assume mandatory anyways, so sure.

> Think about offering paid leave benefits to small businesses and see what happens to the government coffers!

Nothing if it's funded properly. If you have, say, 5% of people taking paid leave, you tax everyone 5% of their salary and give that to the people on leave (roughly speaking). This is just a question or redistributing income not creating money out of thin air.

If we wanted to just give money to people with kids there are better ways to do it than paid leave. A tax that gave everyone paid leave would be so high that it would probably be politically untenable: it is now not effectively a tax, and its not redistrbuted properly, so it can fly as it is.

The downside of long paid leave, apparently, is that women are more likely to become full-time parents rather than re-enter the workforce. Is it fair to say that this makes long paid leave a bad thing? It seems wrong for me to consider a woman's life choices bad one way or another (whether they choose to re-enter the workforce or not). An organization is cutting benefits to try socially engineer a certain demographic outcome. I'm not sure if that action is something to be commended.

Paying parents to take leave is a form of social engineering to begin with. Once you're already engaged in social engineering, it's important to consider the impacts that alternative social engineering policies will have.

"Life choices," moreover, don't happen in isolation. They happen within a broader social context. My wife and I basically have the same job--we're attorneys of similar seniority at corporate law firms. Over the years, she has faced so many more headwinds related to parenting than me. People stop my wife on the street to remark about how our 5 month old is dressed (warmly enough, etc.). I could stroll him down the street in nothing but a diaper in 40 degree weather and people would either offer to help or tell me how I'm such a good dad for not immediately ditching my family when he was born. (I'm joking but only a little bit.)

(One of the neat things about "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is that it shows how it was socially acceptable for rich people in the 1950s-1960s to completely delegate parenting. In 1965, 70% of kids were not breastfed even in the hospital. It's much more socially acceptable for women to work these days, but in some respects the expectations for "mothering" are much higher. Decisions about whether to return to work are made in the context of these differential social expectations.)

Speaking as a full-time father of a 2-year-old, don’t worry, people also feel free to question fathers’ parenting on a daily basis. (In particular, they are shocked that we often walk around town barefoot, but plenty of other random stuff draws busybody commentary.)

I imagine it is worse for women in some places, but plenty of people on the street are eager to share their opinions with parents in general. Not to mention those who just stick to frowning and shaking their heads without saying anything.

Back when he was a few months old, I was told on a regular basis by strangers that I was an ‘amazing’ father just for carrying him around, which is certainly something that mothers seldom encounter.

> One of the neat things about "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is that it shows how it was socially acceptable for rich people in the 1950s-1960s to completely delegate parenting

Judging from some of the raised-by-nannies-then-prep-school people I went to college with, this sometimes has mediocre results. YMMV.

> Judging from some of the raised-by-nannies-then-prep-school people I went to college with, this sometimes has mediocre results. YMMV.

The prep-school crowd could obviously afford to delegate the most, but if you are ages 30-60, it's highly likely you were formula fed, not worn around in a sling, babysat by the TV, etc. And everyone turned out fine. There was subsequently a reaction to that modern convenience which, in my view, is the modern equivalent of foot binding.

I am 33, and I was breastfed until 2, carried around in a sling, didn’t spend much time on TV or screen games, etc. But my parents are an anthropologist and a schoolteacher, who both spent lots of time on family. (Note: I certainly have plenty of my own problems and wouldn’t claim to be any kind of human ideal role model.)

Your description more or less fits my parents (now ~70), though TV wasn’t anywhere near as pervasive during their childhood as a few decades later, and they spent tons of time outside as kids.

Whether “everyone” among my peers who were raised by screens turned out “fine” is debatable at best. Many of the kids of 2-parents-with-full-time-professional-jobs-and-not-much-time-for-family ended up with plenty of baggage and interpersonal problems. Not to mention chronic health problems caused by lifestyle, etc.

Of course, there has been plenty of shitty parenting (either coercive or neglectful) throughout history. New styles of shitty parenting are different than old ones, but it’s not clear they are “worse” per se.

* * *

From personal experience, the 2–3-year-olds I see who get more practice walking around town and running around on the playground (instead of being pushed in a little cart), playing with a wide variety of toys (instead of being kept away from the ones that say "age 3+"), engaging with adults (instead of handed over to a screen), working through their emotions with patient support (instead of having adults try to control their emotional responses), etc. are significantly ahead of their peers in strength, balance, agility, speed, hand-eye coordination, listening comprehension, speech, logical reasoning, emotional maturity, etc., even accounting for the inherent large variance of kids’ development. It’s not clear to me yet to what extent much school evens out those differences for older kids.

In my personal opinion, the biggest problems I see around town and on the playground are adults emotionally manipulating small kids and restricting their ability to direct their own attention, control their own actions, or deal with (minor) consequences. Some parents and nannies are real tyrants, and many others are pathologically overprotective.

Other stuff seems relatively minor. If parents need to feed their kids formula for whatever reason, or put them in daycare 9–5 out of financial necessity, or slather them in too much sunscreen, or dress them in gender-stereotyped clothes, or buy them too many commercialized movie-tie-in action figures, or give them too much candy at halloween, or don’t read to them for 2 hours per day, or .... I certainly won’t judge them.

I agree that any form of paid parental leave is in part a form of social engineering. But I clearly see the benefit of it: to encourage people to have children. This is beneficial because developed countries face the demographic challenge of an ageing population.

But the question I am asking is, between a couple taking a year of leave and one (usually the woman) decides to become a full time parent vs. a couple takes 6 months leave to have a kid and both stay in the workforce. Why is the latter better than the former?

My first thought was that it would improve gender imbalance, but the article states that Gates Foundation employees are two thirds women. So that's out the window.

So the only other justifications require subscription to the belief that a woman who chooses to become a full time parent isn't as good a thing one that stays in the workforce. Sure, the latter improves a country's labor pool. But there's a lot of intangible benefits of having a full time parent. It seems kind of manipulative to cut workers' benefits and try and justify it because it makes more women keep working, when the evidence seems to be that many would have chosen differently if the benefits weren't cut.

As you acknowledge, it's usually the woman that takes the longer leave. Part of that is free choice. But part of it is also that women have lower opportunity costs to taking leave, and higher opportunity costs to staying in the workforce. A couple might realize that a woman will face additional headwinds to achieving seniority in her employment, since as you go up the ladder management tends to be disproportionately men. Moreover, a women will also face more headwinds for doing less mothering in order to continue in her career. Longer parental leave amplifies the effect of that pre-existing differential treatment, which is a downside to be accounted for.

> Moreover, a women will also face more headwinds for doing less mothering in order to continue in her career.

I'm not sure how cutting parental leave eliminates pr reduced these headwinds. It seems to me that it's deliberately putting more financial pressure on women to tolerate those headwinds. Not eliminating those headwinds. Women's choice is strictly less with 6 months of paid leave as compared to 1 year. Women have the choice to take 6 months of leave instead of the full year (the article mentions that they use 77% on average).

It still seems like this is trying to justify limiting women's choices and benefits, because it makes more of them work.

It reduces this headwinds in the long term. Girls raised by working moms are more likely to have careers, earn more money, and hold supervisory positions: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/kids-benefit-from-having-a-workin.... That, in turn, reduces gender inequality for the next generation.

> Girls raised by working moms are more likely to have careers, earn more money, and hold supervisory positions.

Note that "reduced headwinds" isn't one of these. Countries with high rates of mothers in the workforce don't necessarily have more flexible gender roles. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have the highest rates of working mothers, but have some of the strongest workplace segregation.

It's also a largely circular justification: more working mothers are better because their daughters are more likely to become working mothers. Again, this only functions as a justification for those that subscribe to the belief that working mothers are categorically better than non-working mothers.

My original point, from which we have diverged significantly by now, is that this article and many in this thread seem to believe that working mothers are categorically better than full time mothers. This seems to have led us to respond positively to measures that increase the former, even when those measures are coercive (in this case, cutting benefits and putting more financial burden on mothers).

> But the question I am asking is, between a couple taking a year of leave and one (usually the woman) decides to become a full time parent vs. a couple takes 6 months leave to have a kid and both stay in the workforce. Why is the latter better than the former? workforce

I think the point may be that employer paid family leave is meant to help people make having a new child fit in with their career. If you are switching to full time parenthood you are quitting your job, not taking a leave from your job.

They aren't implying that working parents are better than full time parents, or more desirable to society. They are just saying that as employers they are designing their program around people who are going to remain employees.

For most of my childhood I was raised by a single father. Maybe people on the street don't come out and say it, but many of them definitely think that a father can't provide everything a mother can and is in some way imperfect when compared to the care they think only a mother can provide.

This is complete bullshit, by the way.

Well, there are things mothers can provide that fathers can't :)

Such as?

Breast feeding.

Yes, it is...because the company is subsidizing your child and gaining nothing from it at all. You could work somewhere for a year, take a year off, then quit. The company just lost tons of money and output. That's not sustainable for the company.

How can a company subsidise a worker? That's just pay.

(Also here in Europe it's standard that the pay for parental leave is covered from the social budget making financial strain on companies marginal.)

Subsidize is not a government only term. Paying someone for nothing is subsidizing them. If government picked up the tab, it would be different...but in the case of the Gates Foundation that is not happening.

You could think of this as deferred compensation, in that policies like this make the Gates Foundation a more attractive employer, at no additional present* cost to them.

[*] Or possibly future, if the employee does not have any more children.

Maybe if you forced the employee to sign a contract where they had to work there for X amount of years, which is something the Armed Forces do. But then enforcing that, and hiring lawyers to claw back money through the courts would be extensive and just bad press.

Maybe we're not on the same page here. Definitely, the company cutting paid child leave from a year to 6 months is beneficial to the company. I disagree, though, that this is beneficial to the workers or society as a whole because this benefits cut results in more women working. Such a justification necessarily implies that it's worse for a woman to be a full time parent than to be part of the workforce, and I can't bring myself to agree with that premise.

> implies that it's worse for a woman to be a full time parent than to be part of the workforce

For an individual, that might be the case. A mother who feels incentivized to drop out of the workforce due to childcare might later in life regret not having a career. A better balance of incentives that keeps someone working while ensuring childcare costs are taken care of (or at least subsidized) might make for a better outcome.

For society, well... who knows. You may believe that it's better for the kid to have a full-time parent in the home, but I don't think that's a settled argument with any degree of certainty. Certainly some amount of full-time parenting is great (some would say essential) for a kid, and lack of it can cause early development issues, but if -- just making up numbers here -- after 9 months, having a full-time parent only makes things 10% better for a kid vs. having a part-time parent and part-time third-party childcare, maybe that's okay?

> You may believe that it's better for the kid to have a full-time parent in the home, but I don't think that's a settled argument with any degree of certainty

I don't really believe either with any degree of certainty.

What I do believe, though, is that parents should be empowered and equipped to make that choice for themselves. Which I why I don't see the positive impact in a company putting more financial pressure on couples to pick one of those choices is a good thing.

> That's not sustainable for the company.

It's not sustainable for a company that doesn't intend to stay in business for more than a generation. But for a multinational corporation the aging of both their consumers and especially of their workers is on the other hand pretty unsustainable. Just look at where Japan was in the late 1980s and where it is now, with no redress in sight.

>It's not sustainable for a company that doesn't intend to stay in business for more than a generation

So 95% of corporations?

Google and Amazon are already more than 20-years old, Facebook is approaching 15, I guess, while Apple and MS are 40-ish. And these are technology corporations that are supposed to have a shorter shelf-life compared to big companies active in other areas of the economy. So corporations/big companies are here mostly to stay, and as such they have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders that their consumer base doesn't physically disappear from under them in another 20 years.

>Google and Amazon ..., Apple and Amazon

Those are outliers and are not useful to talk about when discussing the economy as a whole.

It's a bit disingenuous to toss out a hand-wavy 95% statistic and then similarly hand-wave away rebuttals.

So is vacation or sick leave a subsidy as well?

In some cases, it is depending on the companies policy. If you get vacation accrued immediately instead of "earned hours" then yes. Subsidizing just means financially supporting. Companies subsidize a lot of things for workers, from college tuition, healthcare to special credit rates (at least at some insurance/financial firms that lend to their own workers.)

Of course, there are a vast array of subsidies across employment in most every system. The issue is duration and reasonability of a given approach, which is open to a fair debate.

Workers that are frequently sick are likely to be subsidized by other workers that are rarely sick. I'm not referring to pay, rather, to output. That's a form of subsidy. Does that mean there should be no sick pay and workers should come in sick? Of course not.

What is the alternative to vacation being a subsidy? A god given right? That's absurd. It's plainly a subsidy and one that is widely supported and liked.

Universal healthcare is a subsidy as well. Overwhelmingly the healthy subsidize the sick. The poor are subsidized by everyone else. It's nearly universally accepted as an approach to healthcare and yet it's definitely a system of subsidy.

Subsidy is not inherently evil. Civil society is filled with all sorts of contracts between peoples, including subsidies between classes and people in different situations.

If the company is forced to provide it, it's a subsidy. If they provide it contractually, it's an employment benefit.

Offering cash in lieu seems like a pretty decent compromise. Like, if you're going to stay home for good at the end of it anyway, you can just quit (or go onto unpaid leave) at the six month mark and you benefit from having been paid up until that point. And if you want to go back, you have the extra assistance with infant childcare costs.

I agree with you but to play devil's advocate, the women in the US who are most likely to get paid leave are in highly skilled salaried positions (which is also abhorrent in its own way).

While it's definitely a good thing to have parents spend as much time as possible with their family, the economy would be better served by having these parents back in the workforce while a lower-skilled person takes care of the children during the day.

I think the best way to have your cake and eat it too, in terms of overall economic productivity and parent-child bonding, is to subsidize childcare so that the economic incentive to stay home is removed. The choice to stay home would only be made with the consideration of the child in mind.

Here in New York for example, we pay $25k on daycare per child. Depending on the parent's individual salaries, the gains in income vs childcare expenses becomes marginal after 2-4 children.

> the gains in income vs childcare expenses becomes marginal after 2-4 children

That's also a good point to make in a parent's calculation as to whether or not going back to work makes sense. A member of my extended family decided she wouldn't go back to work for a while after giving birth (going on 3 years now), because a public school teacher's salary, minus childcare costs (while still a positive number), wasn't worth the extra hassle of dealing with work+childcare logistics. And that's just with one kid.

The hand-wavy allusion to "research" seems to be ending at: https://www.nber.org/papers/w18702

Which shows at least for Norway and Sweden women participation was on the increase for the study.

So maybe it's not the leave of 9+ months that's the problem, but that in combination with other factors?

A blanket statement that one year is too long, sounds like bullshit - when the listener is in one of the Scandinavian countries, anyway.

Seems unlikely. Europe have a higher labour force participation among women than the US, with paid parental leave (for both men and women).

Average total tenure at companies is around 2.8 years for people between 25-34 (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https:/...).

If you have 1 year off for parental leave, and probably months before and after to hand off work and take it back up, that would be almost half the job tenure on parental leave efforts.

That's rough for the company and the employee.

Thats why the civilised world does it, using taxes, or similar vehicles.

In Denmark Corporations pay a fee of about 43USD pr. quarter, pr. Employee, and then the found and the government, pay the paid leave for any employee.

There are many versions of parental leave in Denmark, but everyone has it from people working at mcdonalds to ceos.

Paid parental leave should accrue over time. That solves the issue in a way that is reasonably fair to the employee and business.

An employee with no interest in having children should also accrue parental leave, which can be cashed in in some manner. That keeps the system from being unfairly biased against people with no interest in having children.

The only alternative is to socialize the matter fully. Take the average salary from the prior N years and the government then pays for the parental leave out of taxes. That would also require all workers to pay into the system. One issue would be how to make it fair for people that never draw against that system. It would also take about five minutes before the first stories started showing up about how people earning $300,000 per year were being paid large sums by the government for parental leave. I suppose there could be an attempt to scale it based on pay as a percentage of income.

Entitlement systems are always fraught with edge cases though. Both of my parents died before they were able to draw social security, despite paying into the system for a combined ~70-80 years. That money was stolen from them by a flawed system.

> Both of my parents died before they were able to draw social security, despite paying into the system for a combined ~70-80 years.

I'm sorry about your parents, but that's how the system was intended to work. There are very few people who can save like they'll live to 120. Their livelihoods are going to be subsidized by who don't live as long under any system.

> "That keeps the system from being unfairly biased against people with no interest in having children."

In theory yes. However, if past politics as it relates to tax reg are any indication then it seems unlikely. Both marriage and children have an incentive at the federal level. Great for getting votes, but hardly fair and equal at the societal level.

thats simply stupid. So ppl should get children at 50, when they have acruued parental leave?

People should get parental leave when they need it..

> thats simply stupid.

Is that really all you have to offer?

> So ppl should get children at 50, when they have acruued parental leave

The very obvious flaw in your "thats simply stupid" conclusion is incorrectly speculating on how fast I think parental leave should accrue. Why would it take decades to accrue? N months per year, then cap it at a reasonable maximum until or unless it's used, with the accrued time/value persisting (which could have benefits for grandparents, people that adopt at older ages, and so on).

I think its funny that ppl (mostly Americans), try and invent complicated new ways of doing things like this, instead of using how 90% of the civilised world does it.

Accrued Paid Paternity Leave, wouldnt work because of these reasons.

What if you get pregnant "by accident"?

What if you want to change jobs/company?

What if you get fired?

The rest of the world, solves this by having the leave not directly paid for by the employer, but by a fund. This also means that female employees, are more or less "risk free" for employers, as the leave, is not a direct expense.

This fund is paid into, by all employers, for about 43USD pr quarter pr Employee. (Danish figures). That small amount means 28 weeks of fully paid paternity leave for all. (After that, you get a smaller amount, based on sallary but capped)

What I don't get is, why don't they make a study on how first world countries do it, see which ones are having trouble, see which ones are thriving (France I think), implement trials in a few states, see what's what, then go from there. Bill Gates' opinion on this shouldn't matter.

IMO this should be woman's (or man's if man is staying at home with the kids) choice, and their choice alone. And paid leave should be at least 2 years, even if partially paid. The job market hasn't been this tight in 50 years, now would be a good time to introduce longer paid family leaves.

Two years seems absolutely absurd on many levels.

It is not absurd. We have (I think partially-)paid 2-year parental-leave here in Romania and people and companies manage just fine. Of course, not all of the involved people choose to stay for the whole two years at home, but I have lots of former colleagues and acquaintances that did just that and they were more than ok, even more than that, the companies hiring them managed to stay in business, even if they weren't owned by successful business people like Bill Gates. 6-month only parental-leave is a joke, no parental-leave is barbarous.

Six months? My wife and I receive exactly as many paid days as we have saved up PTO. So, about three weeks each. Any time after that is unpaid, but we’re protected from being fired for three months.

This sounds so wrong to me, and I don't even have kids yet. Until issues like this one aren't resolved then the inequality between men and women (in wages, management positions) will continue to remain the same, no matter the media rhetoric, for the simple fact that many women will choose not to go back to work (it's mostly women that make that sacrifice).

How does the work that would have been done by the person on leave get taken care of?

Does it (1) go undone, (2) do those not on leave have to do it in addition to their normal work, (3) do companies set their staff sizes so that they have extra capacity to take up slack from those on leave, or (4) do they hire temp workers to fill in until the person on leave comes back?

Does it? Most European countries offer 1 year paid maternity leave (quite often it's almost 14 months because PTO is still applies) then you can take another 1 year of unpaid leave. The employer cannot fire you.

If I’m a small business making enough to employ myself and 2 other people, how very carefully would I think about taking on someone whom I might need to pay to not* work at my company for a year?

Where I live: Government pay for it if the company has fewer than 20 people.

That makes it way more feasible for small businesses. Of course that now just makes me think extremely hard before hiring my 20th person.

That’s at least a much less serious limitation to job creation.

I'm not saying it should be fully paid, although I'd welcome some sort of a UBI-like payment to stay at home parent (singular, mother _or_ father) in the first 2 years of their child's life. I'm saying that's what the needs of the child really are. To have to sacrifice that to "reenter the workforce" should really be socially unacceptable.

>Two years seems absolutely absurd on many levels.

Especially "at least" 2 years. As in, 2 years was the minimum and maybe 5 would be better?

It likely would be, actually, but I think 2 years is more economically sustainable. Like it or not, for a society to work, we have to procreate and raise kids. To make raising kids properly (which is already hard work) impossible is idiotic and counterproductive.

Allowing one's children to be raised by strangers is lazy and selfish. And absurd.

We of course need procreation to continue the species, but arguably the world is already overpopulated, unsustainably so. Aside from that, there are plenty of orphans in the world that need loving parents.

Choosing to procreate, period, is selfish. And yet we don't scorn people for taking that path.

I dunno selfish, I could make the argument that raising your child yourself out of some misguided notion that you're the best person for that job is selfish.

Disagree, within the timeframe of this topic. 0-6 months is basically all about the bond between child and parents. Sometime after that, sure, a requirement to socialise comes into play.

I'm afraid I must disagree. There's no evidence to suggest that the bond between a child and its biological parents is in any way important. Further, it is unlikely that its biological parents are experts on raising children and are thus likely to raise it suboptimally, leading to a poorer quality of life in its future.

Therefore, it is more selfish to raise your child yourself than to have an expert to do it for you.

I shouldn't have to disclaim this by argument by saying that I'm not making a serious recommendation to anyone, but because parents are so defensive and irrational when it comes to how they raise their children, I feel that I must. I don't have kids and don't plan on having kids, so this is merely an intellectual exercise for me.

What do you mean "socialize"? Do you have kids? Most kids can't even walk until they're about a year old.

That was my point? In that there’s no benefit to the child to be in someone else’s care with a bunch of other kids for the first 6 months at least, and probably quite a lot older than that.

Assuming 2 years paid leave only works if your workers are non-essential and additionally more-or-less interchangeable. What happens if a person is hired for an essential role, then leaves for 2 years expecting their job back?

Imagine like, a CFO or specialist mechanic takes 2 years paid leave. What do you do? You hire a new CFO/mechanic. You can't function well without one, certainly not for 2 years.

Then when the paid-leaver returns, what do you do? Fire the person you hired to fill the gap? Have 2 CFOs or redundant mechanics on staff?

If parental leave is equal between genders, this argument may stand.

But beware any unequal treatment of men and women with generous leave. It creates big incentives not to hire women of a certain age and family status. It's a lot harder to oppose discrimination when the discrimination is obviously rational and arguably not even wrong.

I do wish it was socially acceptable for men to stay at home with kids too. In 90% of the cases currently people will think there's something wrong with the man.

The way it's done in Sweden is that 3 months are reserved for the father, otherwise they're forfeited. Works wonders because initially, fathers had a very legitimate reason to take the leave, anything else would be giving up free money. But once it became the norm, it changed the culture. Now it's creeping upwards slowly, at around 4.5 months on average I think. Not amazing, but it's enough that it's harder to discriminate against women in particular, rather than perhaps more broadly couples in their early 30s... What I see though is that since everyone's doing it, there is a much bigger understanding in company culture that people may be away for a while and just find ways of dealing with that.

Unfortunately I think many men in the US would forfeit that time, free money or not, believing that taking leave as a father is "unmanly" or "shows a lack of loyalty to the company". It's incredibly dumb, but... social pressure usually is.

I don't think American culture is more fundamentally macho than Swedish culture. Maybe now it is on average, but not when this rule came into place. Monetary incentives really do work.

It's not about being macho or anything. It's about societal expectations. I feel that here in the US this shit is actually seeping into the female population as well as more women insist on equality with men. So rather than insist on affording quality parenting time to fathers (which IMO is what they should actually want if they want real, actual equality), they give it up themselves. The aforementioned Swedish use-it-or-lose-it model strikes me as sensible. Some companies here in the US offer vacation time in this fashion, without rollover into the new year, and anecdotally people make it a point to take vacation in that case.

The market won't always be this tight...and frankly, people don't realize how expensive it is for companies to essentially subsidize child care through paid leave and stipends.

If a civilization finds that systematically supporting the creation of the next generation of citizens is just too expensive, it won't find itself a civilization for much longer.

Civilizations currently finds themselves basically over-run with people at the moment and getting “worse” every decade. I don’t think we’re headed towards any kind of insufficiency.

I just find it ironic that the people on the right screaming in fear of immigration, are also allied with the ones causing a huge concentration of wealth, driving poor economics, and lower fertility of people already settled in first world nations.

I'm ok with our nation as a melting pot, I think we end up stronger for it in the mix, but when you combine demographics with Ebenezer Scrooge capitalism it ends up with groups in nations on the tail of economic expansion are the ones who end up with expanded population.

Children will exist and be part of your civilization regardless of how much you spend on them. You'll be a civilization, just not a very good one.

There used to be a time when there was an unwritten contract between employer and employee - growth options, learning, leave packages, etc - in return for long term tenure at the company. That has basically gone the way of the dodo in most companies.

Because long term tenure doesn't get companies enough of a return. If a company wants me to stay long term, I need regular raises above the rate of inflation, parental leave, everything you listed. It's so much cheaper to spend the $10k or so it costs to replace me every year or two and not worry about the other things.

The market is this tight in part because birth rate is dropping like a rock. It's dropping like a rock because having a child is either unaffordable or too much pain in the ass to deal with. The companies will have to see a bit beyond their next quarterly revenues to see reason in having a sane labor market in the future. I'd also like to see large tech companies (which constantly complain about the "shortage of talent") pitch in on the education/training side of things, without externalizing those costs to the taxpayer and worker.

I don't disagree that governments should be incentivizing reproduction (at least that is my position) the problem is that in this particular instance, the Gates Foundation was not having their cost offset by government and they were just losing workers for a year at a time on their own tab. Yes, Gates is a very rich man, but in the end that really takes away from their charitable work for people that need things a lot more than an extra 6 months. For other companies it takes away even more, and in some cases can outright drive them out of business or cause companies to just hire less women.

What's the problem with letting them work part-time from home while they're rearing their newborn? Maybe show up at the office with their newborn once a week to catch up in person. I don't get it. It's not like the work typically conducted at such foundations requires them to be in the office 100% of the time.

The problem is that in many places that would be illegal.

>It's dropping like a rock because having a child is either unaffordable or too much pain in the ass to deal with

Why is it that everyone leaves the invention of the birth control pill out of this conversation? It is likely more significant (in its effects on the world) than the invention of nuclear weapons.

Because people are choosing not to have children, or to have fewer children than they have in the past. Sure, better birth control methods make it easier to realize those choices, but... so what?

The alternative is we end up with many more unwanted children, which I hope we agree isn't a good outcome either.

No-one on this thread has mentioned breast feeding. The WHO recommends exclusively breast feeding a child for 6 months, and to continue until they are at least 2 years old. I understand that this is not possible or desirable for many parents, but the choice to do so should be available.

No surprise that even the most socially responsible companies in the US are skewed towards the extreme low end of parental leave allowance relative to other countries.

US employment law doesn't incentivise long term employment full stop, so little wonder some on here find it hard to understand why it is worth paying employees to come back.

There is nothing wrong with bottle feeding. Some children do not breast feed well, some do. You should just go with what works.

Formula can be consistently made. The "breast milk is best" argument depends on cherry-picked breast milk.

Is it still better than formula if Mom drinks or has some health problem? Stuff passes into breast milk. If Mom takes an ibuprofen, into the breast milk it goes.

Can HIV pass through breast milk? No clear answer:


If you look at the scientific arguments about how breast milk is better, they revolve around hair-splitting. Like increased risk of necrotising enterocolitis in pre-term babies.

Your post is mommy-shaming FUD.

Ibuprofen is considered safe to take while breastfeeding. A brief web search didn’t turn up any concerning evidence (maybe you know of some?). There are some medicines which concentrate in breastmilk, but ibuprofen is not one of them.

Women who need certain prescription medicines, are undergoing chemotherapy, have HIV or certain other viral diseases, have had significant lead exposure, etc. are clearly warned not to breastfeed.

Mom has to drink alcohol extremely heavily on a regular basis to make a serious problem for a breastfeeding baby.

Alcohol content in breastmilk is roughly comparable to blood alcohol content. 3 drinks and it’s like 1 part in 1000. I wouldn’t advise breastfeeding women to drink several drinks at a time, but more for their own health than their infant’s – if mom loses motor control, becomes belligerent, starts making poor choices, etc. that isn’t great for her family. People in general should use alcohol sparingly, but new mothers don’t deserve any special scorn for drinking.

At worst, some studies suggest that babies drink less on average in a breastfeeding session immediately after the mother was drinking, presumably because the taste is strange.

The dangerous one for the baby is not a mother drinking while breastfeeding, but regular or heavy drinking during early pregnancy. The period of time when alcohol can have the most severe negative effects often comes before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

There definitely can be risks depending on the health of the mother.

My thought for the original post was of an average healthy woman.

Question: Does this work for both parents? That is, in theory, both parents are eligible for a year (or six months?) of paid leave? Might it be possible to not have both parents take the time simultaneously? That is, one parent takes the first six months then the other parent the second six?

Mind you, that takes some coordination, but it's not impossible, is it?

I think paid leave is just plain immoral. It is up to the parent to evaluate how much they care for their child vs foregone salaries. Paid leave is just a distortion: it makes employees and employers dance around a topic that is not in the employers business.

How can you correctly price how much the time with your kid is worth if you get gifted money for inflating it?

The worst part of this debate is that its a constant pull between two players that understand the same policy in different ways: employees think they are getting free money, but in reality the employer distributes the cost from one employee to the others. (ie. if you have a budget for 10 employees, and you make employees 10% more expensive, now you get 9 employees).

So employees ask for something thinking its in their benefit, and employers are thinking "as long as the competition gets hurt as much as we do, we don't care".

And to add insult to injury, its the richest of the richest that get the longest paid leave benefits, longest pto, etc etc, mostly to reduce tax burden.

> I think paid leave is just plain immoral. It is up to the parent to evaluate how much they care for their child vs foregone salaries.

This is delusional or dangerous thinking. Are you an ultra privileged & sheltered young man? You do realise that even if a parent chooses to work, they have to pay someone for childcare?

Quite the opposite, form a very unsheltered life. It is the sheltered people that want to get paid leave, which is why the highest income workers are the ones that get the most paid leave of all.

> You do realise that even if a parent chooses to work, they have to pay someone for childcare?

That is an argument against paid leave: if a worker takes up the "nanny job" for their own son, they are capturing 100% of the value they do. No need to pay them twice for it.

> It is the sheltered people that want to get paid leave

The sheltered people in your life. Are they the ones that have mortgages?

The unsheltered people of my life don't have stable salaries or jobs, dont even imagine what paid leave is. The ones with 6 figure salaries are the ones on paid leave. Still anecdotal, but im pretty sure you will find that most paid leave is taking by people that dont need it. The ones that need it the most dont have stable jobs or benefits.

Would like like to reword your first answer to take into account your last answer?

Also, my bad - not sure where you live but it sounds horrifying. I can't believe there is somewhere in the world where people on 6 figure salaries are the only ones with access to basic employment benefits, and those less fortunate have no government provided safety net (now that sounds morally bankrupt to me).

I'm curious as well to find out if there are any people considered to be in the middle classes? Say...two full time earners taking in less than 6 figures, for instance? Is that a rarity in your country?

>im pretty sure you will find that most paid leave is taking by people that dont need it.

Not where I'm from, no. Most of the people I know that take paid leave are families where both parents need to continue to work to cover cost of living.

> not sure where you live but it sounds horrifying

San Francisco, US.



The important number in here is that only 16% of American workers have access to paid time off. Many people are considering whether twelve days is too much before the loss of income causes serious problems, debating the ideal length seems like a less important issue.

Is the framing of this article normal in the US? Until a single paragraph at the end it reads like women are the sole parent. Also the complete lack of perspective of seeing parental leave as an end in itself, rather than some career crippling modernity.

Unpopular opinion: Extended paternal leave is unnecessary in most cases. I took one week off (my choice) for the birth of my son and it was plenty. My second is on the way and I will probably do likewise.

>> The average cost to provide center-based licensed child care for an infant in the United States is $1,230 per month.

It's interesting, how is it in other countries?

How soon those feel good foundations go from low infrastructure toilets, to risky gene drive research, to economic proscriptions.

It's going to be difficult to have this discussion without deriding the state of affairs in the US, especially in comparison to the rest of the world. I'm Canadian, so my points are through that lens.

The Gates Foundation is a private entity, so they're free to make whatever HR decisions they see fit. Realistically, 6 months of paid leave is still very generous compared to what's legally mandated. And their justification for reducing it from 12 months makes sense when you look at it from their perspective. They have work to do, and it's disruptive to have new parents leave, and be paid to do work that is unrelated.

Which is exactly why it's a shared financial burden when you look at other countries with paid parental leave. The benefit of paying a parent to take care of a new child is not seen directly by the parent's employer. Instead, that benefit is seen by the rest of society, insofar as the child is properly taken care of.

I'm a new parent, my son just turned 5 months. My wife is taking 18 months of paid leave, since that's become an option here in Canada. It comes at a reduced payout rate (i.e the same money you'd get if you took 12 months, but spread out over 18 months), so my wife has not met another mom who has taken 18 months. Furthermore, our new budget is adding 5-8 weeks of secondary parental leave that is only available to the other caregiver/parent.

There is a lot to do when a new baby arrives. Realistically, even though I didn't take time off, my productivity dropped, since I did my best to help out as my wife adjusted and healed. Furthermore, there is a lot to do as our son grows, to ensure he grows and learns enough to enter the education system by age 4. To turn him into a productive, functioning adult is 18+ years of work. As a society, we're asking every parent to make a significant investment in our future.

Therefore, it makes much more sense to socialize the cost. Paid parental leave should be provided by the government, not (directly) by the employer. And that support shouldn't just end at some arbitrary age cutoff. Sure, an 18-month-old is much more developed than a newborn, but my wife and I cannot imagine putting our son into daycare at that age. Instead, we're asking our family to take care of him until he's 2 years old. Then he's going into daycare, which we have to pay for out of pocket. Oh sure, there are some tax breaks available, but even when you factor that in, my wife's salary barely covers the cost of daycare. His daycare will cost more than my engineering tuition + housing cost.

My point is that in Canada, we've socialized the cost of the first 12-18 months, given some tax breaks for the 18 months to 4 years point, and then finally, socialized the cost of education when the child enters school. There's a gap there that should be filled.

In short, private employers cannot be expected to bear these costs alone, which is why most countries socialize it. We all know the US is way behind on this, and kudos to the Gates Foundation for trying to do something for their employees.

But this move is shortsighted, but it's endemic of the shortsightedness of our society as a whole. We expect everyone to be well-adjusted, educated, and functioning members of society, but are unwilling to bear the costs of supporting parents in raising children. Then, we wring our hands wondering why certain kids/adults seem to be lagging behind.

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