Miguel pointed out a Tweet and statement from Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez in which she complained that the US market-driven system gives working women less time with their newborns than dogs who have puppies.
It was stupid, like most of the things that she says… but I’m not unsympathetic to her cause.
Longer maternity leave is better for mothers and children. Both their physical and mental health. As a father, I wish I could have taken more time off, but my employers didn’t have family leave policies so I had to limit myself to 50% of my vacation time. I was entitled to FMLA but we relied on my salary.
This idea of family leave is gaining traction, so I thought I’d toss out a few ideas that I have that might help women and families, that are not socialist nightmares.
First, we have to acknowledge that there is no free lunch. In Germany, women occupy one-third fewer management and upper-level jobs as women in the US. The reason is clear. Germany is the economic powerhouse of mainland Europe, with a strong work culture, much like the US. Women are encouraged to take their maximum maternity leave while the men work. German companies are hesitant to give women of childbearing age more responsibilities in case they get pregnant and leave for months on end. This holds back their careers.
Women in Germany (and elsewhere) pay for their extended leave with reduced earnings and career advancements.
Second, the paid maternity leave is not an employer benefit but a government one. No company would hire a woman in Europe if it meant having to pay six months of salary for her while she was out with a newborn. The government pays a benefit similar to how we have federal unemployment insurance. Women get a reduced check from the government for some fixed period of time.
This is also not a free lunch, because this is funded with higher taxes in Europe, so women have lower after-tax take-home pay then get a check from the government when they have kids.
Given that reality, what can we do?
I’m fine with extending FMLA out from 12 weeks to 26 for birth, letting women make their own decisions about how long they stay out.
An early collection of Social Security with a retirement deferment. Let’s say that a woman decides to take six months of FMLA. She could collect social security for that period, that is money she paid in (Yes, I know SS is a pyramid scheme, but she still paid it), and that early collection delays her retirement collection by six months.
I personally believe a lot of women would be happy to collect six months of Social Security when they have a kid at age 28, and then retire at 67 and 8 months instead of 67 and 2 months. What difference does that six months make at retirement when you need the money for a kid right now?
This is already a government benefit that working people pay into, let them collect a certain amount of it when they need it before they retire.
Create something like a combo 401K and HSA for employees to use for childbirth. Make it double or triple tax-free system, pre-tax income goes in, and it’s not taxed when it comes out. Let employers have some match program that is also tax-deductible to encourage employer contributions.
Rather than collect it at retirement, collect it as a lump sum when the employee has a kid. I’d be happy to put money into a savings program for a few years so that when my child is born I’d get a chunk of change that I can use while on FMLA.
Employers would use this, like a 401K as a competitive benefit for younger workers. Smart workers would use the tax advantage to plan for kids.
Honestly, I’d like to help women have more time off after childbirth. I’d like to take more time off too, and I know that gets expensive.
I just don’t want a new tax heavy, government-funded program to be created to address this.
Use one program we already have and create a second market-driven program and use it.