SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – As Mother’s Day approaches, Americans are taking the opportunity to celebrate parents around the country. Recent data shows, however, that new mothers are undervalued in the U.S. compared to around the world. 

According to a recent study and article on Business.org, the United States is one of the only highly developed countries that does not federally provide or mandate paid maternity leave. Following the U.S., Portugal ranks lowest with six weeks of mandated paid maternity leave. 

According to the study, many European countries rank high on the list of mandated maternity leave, such as Spain, the Netherlands, and France requiring 16 weeks of paid maternity leave at either full or close to full pay. Other countries such as the U.K. and Australia mandate longer periods of optional maternity leave, but at a lower percentage of a working mother’s total pay. 

Courtesy of Business.org

South American countries don’t lag far behind European counterparts, according to the study. According to their research, Chile and Columbia mandate 17-18 weeks of paid maternity leave at full pay. 

The article reports that government-mandated paternity leave is also not uncommon internationally, although usually at a lower number of weeks, usually one to two. 

The article doesn’t include much explanation as to why the U.S. ranks so low in mandated maternity leave. They include data that suggests 30% of U.S. women say that “paid maternity leave is the most important benefit offering” when starting a new job. 

One might guess that federal mandated parental leave is not necessary because employers offer it without a federal mandate, but this is only partly true, according to the article. They write that “the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 23% of civilian workers had access to paid family leave as of March 2021.” 

The study prompts questions about how parental leave may or may not be connected to declining birth rates in the U.S. According to data from a 2021 CDC report, U.S. birth rates have gone from over 4 million in 1990 to around 3.5 million in 2021. World Population Review, however, indicates that many countries with generous mandated parental leave also report lower birth rates in the 21st century, including Portugal, Greece, and Spain.