Comparing Care

Related Articles A Space for Children Maternity leave and childcare go hand in hand as factors that women carefully consider when making plans about their career and family. Governments around the world have taken different approaches to mandating maternity leave that works for the family and the economy. See how US policy on maternity leave compares to a few other countries. Longer Leaves: In Europe, mandatory leave is 14 weeks, though nearly

kerry grens
Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Aug 1, 2007

Maternity leave and childcare go hand in hand as factors that women carefully consider when making plans about their career and family. Governments around the world have taken different approaches to mandating maternity leave that works for the family and the economy. See how US policy on maternity leave compares to a few other countries.

Longer Leaves:

In Europe, mandatory leave is 14 weeks, though nearly every EU country offers time extensions (table reflects total time given per country). In Denmark, for example, a parent can take up to 52 weeks off for childcare, with 60% of their unemployment benefit paid, up to the child's 8th birthday. In the US, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 mandates that employees are allowed 12 weeks of leave, unpaid. However, many employers, particularly in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, offer paid packages.

Country Maternity Leave (weeks) Percent...

Fathers' Days:

In Germany, 85% of eligible families use their parental leave, but only 5% of eligible fathers take paternity leave. In Lithuania, which, at 55.5%, has the highest proportion of female scientists in the European Union, 99% of parents who took parental leave were female. In Slovenia, fathers are entitled to 90 days paternity leave.

Childcare Rights:

In many European countries, parents pay childcare fees based on a percentage of their income. In Latvia, where over 50% of scientists are women, mothers receive 16 weeks of maternity leave and parents only pay for child care meals. In Sweden, like most other Scandinavian countries, childcare is considered a right, with guaranteed access to childcare for children under the age of 12 and a maximum fee of ¤140 per month (about 185 dollars).

Paid Breaks:

Each year Working Mother magazine selects the top 100 mother-friendly places to work. Two companies on that list, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb, for example, offer eight weeks of paid maternity leave. At the only two universities that made the 2007 list, Cornell University and Harvard University, new mothers can take 10 and 12 weeks, respectively, of partially-paid leave.

Data were collected from: The European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunity; The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993; Eurostat, European Communities; UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology; The National Academies' Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy; and The Clearinghouse on International Developments in Child, Youth and Family Policies at Columbia University. (For a complete listing of the time and payment EU countries provide for maternity leave, visit http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/emplweb/gender_equality/publications_en.cfm)

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?