The Adult Labor database examines information concerning paid leave from work for 190 countries. For more information, please read on, or use the buttons above to begin your analyses.
International treaties reflect a strong consensus regarding the importance of ensuring reasonable work hours. The UN's International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which has been accepted by 157 countries, declares that all countries should "recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work which ensure, in particular, reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays." The recognition of people's need for leave from work each year is reflected in national legislation as well. Annual leave is essential for working women and men to meet their own basic needs and those of their families. In addition to needed breaks from often intense work commitments, leave enables women and men to have sufficient time to meet a range of basic needs, for example having time to address housing needs, care for children out of school hours, and help elderly relatives amidst transition. In segments of the global economy where adults are working long hours and at all hours of the day and night, paid leave is particularly important to ensure employees' basic functioning and overall wellbeing. Moreover, research has shown that paid annual leave increases workers' productivity by enabling them to perform more efficiently upon their return to work.
Paid sick leave is crucial to employees' ability to protect their health. Such leave allows workers to access medical care promptly and recuperate more quickly when they become sick, which leads to a shorter recovery time from acute illnesses. For workers with chronic conditions, paid leave provides time to obtain essential medications and follow through on treatment recommendations, and thus reduce the impact of their illness on their day-to-day functioning. Leave to care for health needs is also important for employees who are not experiencing an acute or chronic health problem, as it allows them time for preventive care. Besides enabling employees to prevent, recover from, manage, and avoid exacerbating illness, all of which reduce their total absence from work, paid sick days decrease the likelihood that sick employees will spread infectious diseases to coworkers. Recent studies have shown that the costs that companies incur when sick employees come to work often surpass the costs of employees staying home when they are ill. The lost productivity associated with presenteeism has been demonstrated for a range of health problems, including migraines, depression and mononucleosis.
Parents play a crucial role in caring for their children's physical and mental health care needs. Parents can contribute to the prevention of disease through immunization, accelerate children's recovery from outpatient procedures and hospitalization, and assist children with chronic conditions by monitoring diet and blood glucose levels and administering medications. However, the extent to which parents can care for their children's health is determined by their working conditions. In the United States, where the availability of paid sick leave is limited, parents who have paid sick days are more than five times as likely to be able to care for their sick children themselves as parents who do not have paid sick leave. Without flexible scheduling or paid leave to care for children's health needs, working families are often forced to forgo crucial disease prevention or experience wage and job loss when they take time off to care for children. As just one example, studies in Haiti, Indonesia, and the United States have found that parents report work schedule conflicts as a significant barrier to getting their children immunized. Working conditions also influence whether parents are able to care for their children when they are ill. Without paid leave to care for children's health needs, working families are placed at risk economically, experiencing wage and job loss when they take time off to care for family members.
Working conditions affect the degree of parental involvement in their children's education, which markedly affects educational outcomes. Children whose parents are actively involved in their education perform better on reading and math tests, experience more positive emotional and social development, have fewer behavioral problems, and persist longer in school. Children who are at risk educationally, such as low-income students and those with learning disabilities, receive particularly significant benefits from parental involvement. Yet active parental involvement in children's education can occur only when workplace schedules afford working parents the time to be with their children during out-of-school hours as well as the flexibility to meet with teachers or consult with specialists during the workday. Work-related barriers to helping with homework, participating in school events, and other forms of involvement in children's schooling have been reported by 51 percent of parents in Vietnam, 66 percent of parents in Mexico, and 82 percent of parents in Botswana.
The global population aged eighty or over-the age group likely to require the most care-is projected to grow rapidly, increasing from 88 million in 2005 to 402 million in 2050. While families continue to perform the bulk of caregiving for elderly and disabled family members in developing and industrialized nations, the base of available caregivers not working for pay is shrinking as more women worldwide work full-time. Without workplace supports that enable working adults to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities, the health and welfare of their older family members is at risk. Research has consistently indicated that adults with more support from family and friends live longer, have better outcomes from heart attacks and strokes, and experience better treatment outcomes for mental illness and other conditions. Flexible scheduling, part-time parity, and leave policies are the main workplace resources available to employees with adult caregiving responsibilities. When demands for care are high, workplace supports low, and working conditions poor, caregivers experience higher rates of conditions such as heart disease and depression. To add, in the absence of flexibility and paid leave, caregiving responsibilities can result in wage and job loss.
Paid maternity leave is enshrined in two widely accepted human rights protocols: the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (adopted by 155 countries), and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, adopted by 185 countries). Paid leave for new mothers improves children's health outcomes by enabling mothers to provide essential care to their children, by facilitating breastfeeding, which reduces the risk of infectious and other diseases, and by increasing the likelihood that children will receive necessary immunizations, all of which contribute to lower infant mortality and morbidity rates. Increased parental leave also facilitates the formation of bonds between parents and infants, which fosters the child's positive emotional development. Paid leave for new mothers increases job and income security and improves families' economic conditions by increasing the long-term employment and earning prospects of working women and eliminating the wage "child penalty" that mothers often pay. Such workplace supports also benefit employers by reducing staff turnover, improving workers' productivity, increasing job satisfaction, and enhancing employees' commitment to their company's success.
Over the last century and a half, the dramatic increase in first men's and then women's participation in the wage and salary labor force has led more and more parents to earn a living away from their homes and the family members they care for. These transformations in work and family life make it equally important for working men as well as women to receive adequate leave to care for family members. Paternity leave is one of the key policies for improving gender equity at home, reducing marital stress, and contributing to the healthy development of newborns by increasing paternal involvement with their children and families. Paternity leave policies can also increase equity in the workplace. In nearly every country, women are disadvantaged in promotions and pay because of childbearing as they are expected to bear the bulk of parental leave for children. As a result, general parental leave policies that appear gender neutral on paper are often not so in practice. Leave designated specifically for working fathers can therefore provide important advantages for gender equity.
Analyzing data from 16 countries over 25 years, a recent study concluded that the presence of paid parental leave policies significantly decreased child mortality, even after controlling for income, health technology, and other factors likely to influence child health. Around the world, the availability of parental leave benefits increases the likelihood that mothers will breastfeed their infants during the critical first months of life, which has been shown to increase infants' immunologic protection against infection and reduce rates of morbidity and mortality in developed and developing nations alike. In addition to these health benefits, access to paid parental leave improves the long-term employment prospects and the earnings of working parents.