Nanny States

While advanced economies around the world pride themselves on having attained a high standard of living, including extensive employment rights and protections, there are dramatic differences among them when it comes to women's rights in the workplace. We wonder: In which developed country do women receive the longest maternity leave?

A. Australia
B. United States
C. Chile
D. United Kingdom

A. Australia is not correct.

Until recently, Australia had the shortest maternity leave among OECD countries — just six weeks, none of which was required to be paid. In January 2011, the situation improved when the government started providing working parents with 18 weeks of parental leave pay at the national minimum wage.

B. United States is not correct.

Women in the United States are entitled to only 12 weeks of maternity leave, which lags significantly behind most other advanced economies. Moreover, the United States is the only OECD country where women are not entitled to any paid maternity leave.

In many other countries, including France, Germany and Korea, women are entitled to receive full wages during their maternity leave — a period of 16, 14 and 13 weeks, respectively.

C. Chile is not correct.

In Chile, one of the newest OECD members, mothers receive 18 weeks of maternity leave — all of it fully paid. Among all OECD members, the average maternity leave stands at 19 weeks — and mothers receive pay equal to 13 weeks of average earnings.

When it comes to paternity leave, Germany is the most generous country, providing over 17 weeks of leave and pay equal to nearly 12 weeks of average earnings. In comparison, the country's Nordic counterparts, Norway and Sweden, each offer ten weeks of paternity leave with pay equal to eight weeks' worth of average earnings.

D. United Kingdom is correct.

Women in the United Kingdom can take a full year off of work after they have a child — by far the OECD's most generous maternity leave policy in terms of time off (according to the OECD). Greece ranks second, at 43 weeks, followed by Ireland with 42 weeks (as of 2008).

However, women in the United Kingdom receive pay equal to only 13 weeks of average wages during their time off. In contrast, while Portuguese, Austrian and Dutch mothers are entitled to less leave, they receive 100% of their pay during that time.

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