Washington D.C., Nov 15, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Family leave is more than a women’s issue, it is a family issue, Ivanka Trump said Thursday at the National Review Institute’s event “A Conversation on Paid Family Leave and Childcare” with writer Ramesh Ponnuru.
“For the first time in the history of the paid family leave discussion, we’re getting to a place with legislators, where it’s not ‘should paid family leave be a policy priority?’ but ‘what’s the best design for a paid family leave program?,” Ms. Trump said.
Trump lauded an “exciting” time to be involved in paid family leave projects, as new attention is being brought to the issue, and members of Congress are positing different, but not incompatible, ideas on how to better serve new mothers and their families. “And that was not true when [the Trump administration] arrived two and a half years ago,” she said.
“There was very little bipartisan support–there was one plan that had been proposed, and re-proposed, and re-proposed for many years,” without any sort of bipartisan support or real progress through the legislature, said Trump.
About a quarter of new mothers in the United States return to work within two weeks of having a child, said Trump, who pointed out that 40% of households have a woman as the primary breadwinner, directly linking the availability of paid family leave to those families’ household incomes.
Only 6% of women making less than $75,000 annually have access to paid maternity leave, Trump explained. She said women making more than $150,000 annually have a significantly greater likelihood of access to paid leave than is typical.
Trump and Ponnuru also discussed the country’s fertility rate, which is reportedly now at its lowest level ever.
Ponnuru told CNA at the conclusion of the event that “cultural change” is needed to increase the country’s dwindling fertility rate, an issue the “government has limited power to influence.”
“But I think that there are things that we can do to make it easier for families,” he said. “We have for many years had evidence that Americans have fewer children than they would like to have, so this is not a matter of trying to get people to want children, so much as it is making it possible for them to do something they already want to do.”
Ponnuru said that an uncertain “economic picture” plays a role in explaining why couples are hesitant to have children, and that legislative steps should be taken to address this–such as increasing the child tax credit and lowering the cost of education.
“Making that more affordable, so [parents] may be a little less economically fearful about starting and growing a family,” he said.
Trump said that women and children lacking paid family leave also suffer negative health consequences.
“We actually have the highest rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the developed world,” she said. “Because if you’re that one-in-four mom who is returning to work within two weeks of having a baby, most institutional care centers won’t take a child until they’re between six to 12 weeks of age.”
Due to lack of affordable childcare options for young babies, Trump said, parents often turn to less-desirable, often unsafe options.
In addition to the health benefits that come with a woman being able to take paid leave and stay home with her child, Trump touted the societal economic benefits as well. A woman who has access to paid leave is 40% less likely to use public assistance, she said.
Trump said motherhood is one of the main reasons why a woman declares bankruptcy — something that can be avoided with access to paid family leave.
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