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Paid family leave could help 37% of unemployed Americans return to work sooner, survey shows

  • Many parents and caregivers have had to choose between work and family during Covid-19.
  • A survey shows that paid family leave could help unemployed Americans return to work sooner.
  • Democrats are expected to push for paid family leave in upcoming reconciliation legislation.

Tim Robbins | Getty Images

The U.S. is one of the few industrialized countries without a national paid family leave policy.

Democratic lawmakers are expected to get a long-awaited chance to address that when budget reconciliation legislation comes up on Capitol Hill this month.

A new survey from the Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult shows that having paid family leave policies in place could help get many Americans who have been sidelined from the workforce during the pandemic back to work.

Currently, 79% of workers do not have access to paid family leave, while 60% do not have access to paid medical leave, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The survey found 37% of unemployed Americans said they would return to work sooner if their employer offered paid family leave. That includes 45% of unemployed caregivers.

Meanwhile, of those who cut back their work hours during the pandemic, 58% said they would increase it if their employer offered paid family leave.

The results follow another Bipartisan Policy Center survey conducted in April that found that about 10.6 million workers left their jobs in the past year due to caregiving responsibilities. Black and Hispanic workers were more likely to say caregiving had significantly affected their ability to work.

The trade-off between caregiving and work may become more challenging as federal unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed people expire. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 delta variant could potentially upend plans for children to return to school or for more traditional care services for the elderly and other dependents to resume.

"In this environment, I think it's important that parents and caregivers need workplace flexibility," said Ben Gitis, associate director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "What this survey shows is that paid family leave can be an important piece of that equation."

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