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Welfare Reform in Other Countries Subject of House Hearing

On November 17, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing, “Moving America’s Families Forward: Lessons Learned from Welfare Reforms in Other Countries.”

The only witness to discuss women and welfare reform specifically, Melissa Boteach, vice president, Poverty to Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress, said, “A second area where the U.S. could learn from its neighbors is in the area of work-family balance and encouraging women’s labor force participation. Between 1990 and 2010, U.S. female labor force participation fell from 6th to 17th among 22 OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries. Research by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn has found that 28-29 percent of this decrease could be explained by other countries’ expansion of ‘family-friendly’ policies, including parental leave and part-time work entitlements, whereas the U.S. guarantees no paid sick days and stands alone in failing to offer any form of paid family leave. In contrast, the United Kingdom gives almost all workers a legal entitlement to paid sick days, provides paid family leave, and has a comparatively expansive system of pre-K and child-care assistance. Denmark offers 12 months of paid family leave. And in Canada, parental leave constitutes up to 15 weeks of maternity benefits, plus an additional 35 weeks for parental care by either parent after the birth or adoption of a child.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Douglas Besharov, professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; and
  • Richard Burkhauser, Sarah Gibson Blanding professor of Policy Analysis, Cornell University College of Human Ecology.
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