One of the key causes that is taken up by human rights advocates is that of paid maternal and family leave. Writing in the New York Times, Professor Stephanie Koontz asks with evident disdain why, fifty years after the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the United States—along with such countries as Suriname, Liberia, and Tonga—is alone among the developed nations of the world in denying paid maternity leave to mothers.
Similarly, the movement for mandatory paid-sick leave, as reported by Melanie Trottman in the Wall Street Journal, has also gathered support in the wake of recent flu outbreaks at the city, state, and national level. About 40 percent of private workers do not get this benefit.
These pushes for change ignore all of the inter-firm differences that make certain policies unwise for some companies even when they make good sense to others. Yet when the objection is raised that “such laws weigh on businesses and ultimately hurt workers,” the point is treated as odd. Recent evidence from Connecticut indicates that when firms with greater than fifty employees are required to let workers accrue sick leave (up to five days per year)—one hour for each 40 hours worked—jobs are lost.
But none of these concerns are sufficient to slow down the train wreck. After all, it is always possible to shrug and proclaim that “employers are going to have to re-evaluate their financial situation”—which they may well do by lowering wages or refusing to expand their labor force.