New Book Finds that Latin America Guarantees Paid Leave to New Moms, But Dads Have to Keep Working

Print
November 17, 2009

Study Examines Work-Related Policies in 190 Countries, Including All of Latin America.

For Immediate Release: November 17, 2009
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

Washington, D.C.- A new book finds that Latin America is doing well, compared to the rest of the world, in providing paid leave for new mothers and paid sick leave, but could do better in providing wage premiums for night work, parental leave for new fathers, and paid leave for providers to care for sick family members. The study includes an analysis of work-related policies in 190 countries, combined with an in-depth examination of the working conditions faced by 55,000 households in seven countries on five continents, and detailed interviews of over 2,000 working adults and employers in fourteen countries around the world.

The book, Raising the Global Floor: Dismantling the Myth that We Can't Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone (available today from Stanford University Press), by Jody Heymann and Alison Earle, finds that while 61 nations around the world provide a wage premium for night work; many Latin American countries do not, including Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, and others. No Latin American nations provide more than two weeks of paid parental leave for new fathers; globally, 54 countries do provide this. While 48 countries provide paid leave to address children's health needs and 33 provide paid leave for adult family members' health needs, only two countries in Latin America do so: El Salvador and Nicaragua.

The authors make the point that Latin American countries can afford to implement these policies; globally, none of these working conditions are linked with lower levels of economic competitiveness or employment. Of the world's 15 most competitive countries, all 15 provide leave to care for children's health needs, 12 provide leave to care for adult family members, 12 provide paid leave for new fathers, and 3 provide a night wage premium.

The book finds that Latin America is comparatively generous in other areas of work-related policies and benefits. All of Latin America guarantees paid leave for new mothers, with most Latin American nations providing at least 14 weeks. All Latin American countries also guarantee paid sick leave, with many Latin American nations providing at least 6 months of leave for serious illnesses (although Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina lag behind this 6-month standard).

The book's findings are based on policy research the authors conducted on the 190 countries profiled, and the statistical evidence is complemented by case studies that underscore the human impact of work-related policies:

Gabriela Saavedra worked seven days a week in a Korean-owned sweatshop in Honduras. Her days typically began at 7 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. … Employees were given an ultimatum: either they worked mandatory overtime or they lost their jobs. Some days Gabriela had gone without sleep because she had been forced to work until 5 a.m. She had little time to eat or go to the bathroom.

Author Jody Heymann is Founding Director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy. She is the co-author of the CEPR papers "Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries" (May 2009), "A Review of Sickness-related Leave in 22 High Human Development Index Countries" (May 2009), and "Paid Sick Days Don't Cause Unemployment," (June 2009).