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That headline is not even made up, or not really. Remembering of course that what I am about to critique is an opinion piece, here are some gems. The following comes from a WSJ OpEd from the CEO at YouTube (and an employee of Google).

But support for motherhood shouldn’t be a matter of luck; it should be a matter of course. Paid maternity leave is good for mothers, families and business. America should have the good sense to join nearly every other country in providing it.

If giving 4 months of paid maternity leave is so obviously good for employees AND employers what is preventing potential employees from negotiating for that with their firms? And what is preventing firms from offering these profit enhancing, turnover reducing, morale boosting, incentives to their employees? Surely the President of a company, a large company, a powerful company that hosts all manner of economics videos could offer some insights as to what factors make it hard for this mutually agreeable outcome to emerge. Are the payroll tax laws such that firms paying for paid leave are not willing to make those kinds of payments as compared to offering even greater piles of tax favored health insurance? It’s not just bad economics to assume that huge piles of cash are just lying on tables, it is not really reasonable opining to just say, “the government should do it … because … ”

In an article about the awesome benefits for firms and workers from paid maternity leave we see:

Paid maternity leave is also good for business. After California instituted paid medical leave, a survey in 2011 by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 91% of employers said the policy either boosted profits or had no effect. They also noted improved productivity, higher morale and reduced turnover.

Now for starters – had this article been about the benefits of eliminating the minimum wage and the opinion writer said something to the effect of, “a survey by the Cato Institute found …” you can be SURE as sh!t that “Cato Institute” would have been preceded with, “libertarian leaning” or “conservative leaning” … how about CEPR? Those of you who know their work know what they are all about. Second – a survey? If I survey all of my students about whether they did their readings last night, 90% of them would say yes. I’ll leave it to my more enterprising readers to actually go into the peer-reviewed literature to tell us what economists who have done actual studies on paid leave have found. I don’t doubt that they’ve found positive results, the point rather is that when you are relying on surveys from an advocacy group dedicated to supporting ideas like this, it’s not really anything folks can learn anything from. Imagine reading a paper by …. oh, you get the point.

That last point is one we’ve seen at Google. When we increased paid maternity leave to 18 from 12 weeks in 2007, the rate at which new moms left Google fell by 50%. (We also increased paternity leave to 12 weeks from seven, as we know that also has a positive effect on families and our business.) Mothers were able to take the time they needed to bond with their babies and return to their jobs feeling confident and ready. And it’s much better for Google’s bottom line—to avoid costly turnover, and to retain the valued expertise, skills and perspective of our employees who are mothers.

Let’s ask two rhetorical questions perhaps. First, does the expansion of this policy come with ANY unintended side effects? Did it, perhaps increase the propensity of families to choose to work there in the first place or increase the likelihood of families having children? I actually would think this would be a happy outcome, but things like this would be nice to know. More important … 50% of what? Were there 10 moms who used to leave google per year and now that number is down to 5? Was it 1,000 now down to 500? Was it 2 per year down to 1? Doesn’t such a thing matter? We are all about sciency-good analytics aren’t we? What is the annual variance in defections and how does this 50% number fall within those ranges? Just askin’

Finally, I think this is quite the doozy:

According to a survey released in May by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, the U.S. is the only country in the developed world that doesn’t offer government-mandated paid maternity leave. Every other developed country offers paid maternity leave benefits through social-security programs, so businesses don’t have to shoulder the entire cost. Paid maternity leave isn’t just a First World perk—the U.S. is one of only two countries of the 185 surveyed that does not offer it. The other is Papua New Guinea.

We’ve covered Progressive Cargo Cultism here before, but here is more evidence. “Super awesome enlightened countries have paid maternity leave, so mandating here would also make us super awesome and enlightened.”  What’s the damn obsession with “what everyone else is going?” Those games are fun to play, I don’t think people really want to go down that path seriously. It’s really a poor argumentative tactic, especially for one printed in the WSJ or other reputable source. If that’s the quality of argument we are seeing in some of the best outlets, one can only imagine what is happening in the back alleys of Tumblr and Facebook and other places. But of course that’s not the deepest of our troubles. The deepest trouble is that Ms. Wojcicki seems to me to be, well, you give it a name. The US government doesn’t force employers to offer 18 weeks of paid maternity leave … and only PAPUA NEW GUINEA is in the same boat. Which can only mean one thing: “THEY are awful” and since they are awful and don’t offer paid maternity leave, we are just as awful as them. You can go where you want with that. If it’s not some blatant “-ism” then I don’t know what is.

There is a reason I’ve committed to withdrawing, this sort of nonsense is it.

One Response to “Dear Government, Please Force Me to Do Things That Are Obviously Good for Me”

  1. Harry says:

    My niece, who graduated from college recently landed a full-time job — one with 40 hours+, with health insurance and a 401-K plan. I do not know whether they offer paid maternity leave, but I doubt it. The job is in L.A., not in another developed country.

    I wonder where her resume would have landed if the company were forced to offer paid maternity leave; I doubt it would have been the interview pile.

    Another question: How does New Guinea qualify as a Developed Country? Can Paraguay qualify, too?

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