NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Paid Family Leave: Solution in Search of a Problem

February 11, 2000

President Clinton wants to let parents of newborn or newly adopted children draw unemployment insurance benefits while they are on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. That law allows workers in businesses with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to care for sick children or seriously ill family members, with the guarantee that they get their job back when they return.

Under Clinton's plan, states would pay unemployment insurance benefits to parents -- making the leave paid if it's for the birth of a baby or adoption of a child.

Critics say the initiative is not only unnecessary, but is open to abuse.

  • The purpose of insurance is to protect against the unexpected -- which hardly applies to a birth or an adoption.
  • In a 1996 report, the Commission on Family and Medical Leave estimated that one in six had taken family or medical leave in the 18-month period beginning in January 1994.
  • Eighty percent of them had taken leave for medical reasons -- so they wouldn't qualify for benefits under the Clinton proposal.
  • Only about 0.18 percent of the nation's entire work force reported they wanted to take leave for a new child but couldn't afford it.

That amounts to only about 240,000 workers -- hardly a massive national problem.

Experts point out that the unemployment insurance system is already subject to abuse. In fact, the benefits encourage some workers to stay unemployed longer than they otherwise would. The present system is already in need of reform, and, critics say, doesn't need to be burdened with another entitlement.

Source: Pete du Pont (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Unemployment or Family Leave?" Washington Times, February 11, 2000.


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