Women’s labor market participation in Africa and the West can be traced back to the impact of the second world war, feminism, and women’s emancipation movements. As a result of women’s labor market participation, families needed more time and hands to cater to childcare and eldercare since women’s tasks were no longer restricted to domestic chores, childcare, childbirth, and eldercare. This participation as well influenced the cross-national promulgation of social policies such as parental leave. Parental leave includes maternity and paternity leave and can either be paid or unpaid depending on the country.
Parental Leave in the United States (U.S)
The United States (U.S) is the only developed nation that does not grant a federal paid parental leave. Although, the nation established a parental leave policy under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. This policy provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth, child adoption, elder care, childcare, or spousal care. However, eight states in the U.S: New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, California, Washington, Washington D.C, and Massachusetts provide paid parental leave.
Moreover, under the amended FMLA, a new policy called Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA), federal employees are entitled to paid leave which started on October 20, 2020. Whereas, those who work in private organizations do not have access to federally paid leave except for employees who work in big corporations such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and more.
Unpaid parental leave is a national challenge that needs to be addressed. Therefore, on November 19, 2021, the U.S Congress proposed the bill for four weeks of federal paid parental leave. This was reduced from twelve weeks that was originally proposed by the Biden government under the American Families Plan (AFP) report that was released on April 28, 2021, on the White House website. The provisions of this newly improved policy would permit working parents to have the opportunity to rest after childbirth, to cater to their elderly ones, and to cater to their newborns. Though, this policy is yet to be passed into law.
Although, Claire Miller writes that the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga do not grant paid parental leave. This evidenced that the U.S alongside other developing nations do not grant a federally paid parental leave.
Parental Leave in Nigeria
In contrast to the U.S, Nigeria grants paid maternity leave. Under the 1990 Nigerian labor act, mothers have up to 12 weeks of full-paid leave – six weeks prenatal leave and six weeks postnatal leave. Moreover, maternity leave tends to hover between 12 to 16 weeks depending on the industry. Based on the 1990 Nigeria labor act, Nigeria does not provide paternity leave.
On September 29, 2021, the Head of Federal Civil Service, Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan declared that the government approved 14 days of paternity leave for men in the Nigerian Civil Service. This leave would be called a limited leave since this policy might not favor those in the private organizations’ since this is yet to be a federal law until it is included in the Nigerian Labour Act, which was last reviewed in 1990. This new policy also does not indicate if the leave would be paid or unpaid. Though, various organizations such as the banking and multinational consulting industries grant up to 5 days of paid paternity leave to fathers. Also, Lagos and Enugu state grant two and three weeks of paid paternity respectively.
Is the U.S better than Nigeria?
The U.S and Nigeria are different in the provision of parental leave and at the same time similar. Nigeria has a federally paid maternity leave policy while the U.S does not have paid maternity leave but has a federal civil service paid maternity leave. Both nations lack a federal paternity leave provision but Nigeria has a federal civil service paternity leave provision.
Paternity leave is essential. It would enable parents to share the demand that comes with childcare and parenting. Studies show that when fathers are available in the early years of their children’s lives, it helps to promote father-child bonding. Paternity leave also helps to change the narrative on work-family conflict for mothers as it helps organizations to commit to promoting collective responsibility as Caitlyn Collins puts it, amongst parents and the society at large.
In close, comparing parental leave policies in the United States and Nigeria could be perceived as an unholy comparison. This is because the United States is a First-World country while Nigeria is a Third—World country. However, the above shows that there are differences and similarities between each nation’s parental leave policy provisions.
This was edited to reflect recent policy changes in Nigeria.
Collins, Caitlyn. 2019. Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving. Princeton University Press, P. 26.
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