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Melinda Gates Calls for Family Medical Leave

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Melinda Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the U.S. needs to look at paid family medical leave in order to build back the economy, according to an interview with CNBC yesterday, which was International Women’s Rights Day.

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“In building back, and in this recovery, one of the things Congress is really going to need to look at is paid family medical leave. It is a long time coming in the United States,” she said on CNBC. “We’re not going to get as robust or as quick of a recovery unless we look at this infrastructure that we’ve turned away from for too long.”

According to Paid Leave U.S., in the U.S. — the only industrialized country with no national paid family leave — people go into debt or even lose their jobs simply for having a baby or caring for a family member. The organization says that one in four moms return to work just 10 days after childbirth and that one in six people spend 20 hours a week caring for a sick or elderly family member.

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The organization also says that 26 weeks of paid leave would increase U.S. women’s labor force participation to the tune of a 5% increase in gross domestic product — a $900 billion annual increase, according to its website.

Women have left the workforce in droves during the pandemic, with 2.6 million women not working anymore since February 2020. From rearranging work schedules or helping with remote learning, “pandemic parenting”  reshaped the workforce. This phenomenon is reflected in the employment rate among women age 25 to 54, which is down 4.1 percentage points since February 2020, compared to a decrease of 3.9 percentage points among men.

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