Paul Ryan Says “You Don’t Want To Miss” Time With Your Kids, Opposes Family Leave
At a CNN Town Hall yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked about the need for managing the competing demands of work and family. “What advice would you have for fathers on carving out time with their children—particularly those who don’t have as much career flexibility as you do?” an audience member asked. “I lost my dad when I was a kid. So I grew up wanting a father,” Ryan responded. “I think, if you’re raising kids, and they’re at this formative stage—in our family 11, 13 and 14—they only grow up once. And you don’t want to miss that time. You don’t want to have regrets. You want to be a part of their life.”
And he is right. Many Americans don’t want to miss time with their children. But what Ryan doesn’t mention in his response is the fact that millions of Americans would like to spend more time with their families but can’t because of outdated family leave policies. The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid time off for the birth of a new child and Paul Ryan has been an outspoken opponent of guaranteed paid family leave. So—unlike Paul Ryan—most Americans do not have the option of being able to take time off work to care for a newborn, let alone spend with their children as they grow.
In fact, just 13 percent of workers in the U.S. get paid family leave from their employers—and the workers who do get coverage tend to have higher incomes than those that don’t. Among lower-income workers, that figure falls to 5 percent.
The lack of guaranteed paid family leave disproportionately affects women. Female workers are more likely to shift from full- to part-time work—or leave a job entirely—to care for a new child. This lowers families’ income streams when they need it most, makes it more difficult for mothers to return to the workforce, and comes with a huge hidden cost over a parent’s an entire career. When they have paid leave, 9 out of 10 mothers return to work within a year of giving birth. But when mothers have to quit their jobs because of child birth, less than half return to the workforce within a year.
Paid leave helps fathers (like Paul Ryan) as well. Research finds that when paid leave is offered, men are much more likely to take it. And equitable family leave policies would help close the gap between men and women’s pay. About 10 percent of the gender wage gap stems from differences in work histories. Offering leave to both men and women would eliminate many gaps in work history—and reduce the stigma around taking time off.
Maternity and paternity leave aren’t the only pieces of the puzzle of family economic security. Millions of low-wage working parents struggle to schedule a doctor’s appointment, teacher’s conference or just be able to read to their kids at bedtime because of scheduling volatility. Paul Ryan opposed a bill requiring employers to give at least two weeks’ notice about employee schedules. And Ryan—along with the rest of the House GOP—opposed a measure last year guaranteeing paid sick days to certain employers (something almost every other developed country also guarantees).
The rest of congressional Republicans are just as bad as Speaker Ryan on work-family issues like paid leave. Congressional Republicans obstruct progress towards universal, comprehensive paid leave and instead offer weak alternatives. Instead of supporting comprehensive paid leave, Congressional Republicans tout tax incentives for businesses that choose to expand paid family and medical leave, which alone are unlikely to be enough to compel employers to embrace paid family and medical leave or to expand leave for the families that need it the most.
BOTTOM LINE: Paul Ryan has admirably made fatherhood—and managing the competing demands of work and family—a priority in his own life. But he has so far failed to support the millions of Americans who need the paid leave that he takes for granted.
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