Trump has a long way to go on childcare policies

With Republican candidate, Donald Trump, winning the race to the White House I joined the chorus of groans, face palms and genuine disbelief that a racist, misogynist had been elected to run the United States of America. Even if he’s not a racist or misogynist at his core he engaged in some pretty elaborate rhetoric which hardly painted him in a good light.

I’d like to believe that most of my friends agreed with my views on Trump but since the results were announced, Republican supporters are slowly peeking their heads above the parapet.  Some argue, especially after his acceptance speech, that he’ll probably tone it down once he gets comfy in the Oval Office. They point out that making promises as a candidate is much easier than bringing those policies to fruition once you’re actually in the hot seat.

But what if Trump gets his way? If I was a parent living in America what would I have to contend with? I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and check out his childcare policies more thoroughly on his website. That would be, after all, what I would be concerned about most as a parent of two small children.

These are Trump’s childcare policies*:

  1. Rewriting the tax code to allow working parents to deduct from their income taxes child care expenses for up to four children and elderly dependents.
  2. Allow parents to enrol in tax-free dependent care savings accounts for their children or elderly relatives.
  3. Provide low income households an Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit – in the form of a Childcare rebate – and matching $500 contribution for their savings accounts.
  4. Creating a new, dynamic market for family based and community based solutions.
  5. Incentivising employers to provide childcare at the workplace.
  6. Provide six weeks of paid maternity leave to new mothers before returning to work.

Unbelievably America, which is a developed country still doesn’t offer paid maternity or paternity leave for parents. I find this shocking considering European countries manage to offer decent maternity leave benefits (generally paid).

In Sweden, for example, parents are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80% of their salary on top of the 18 weeks reserved just for mothers, after which parents can split up the time how they choose. Serbia offers mothers 20 weeks of fully paid leave after giving birth, while in Lithuania moms get 18 weeks fully paid. For more on what other countries offer in terms of paid maternity and paternity leave, click here.

Trump’s website claims that Hillary has ‘not made any specific solutions for childcare’. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. She says: “Too many moms have to go back to work just days after their babies are born. And too many dads and parents of adopted children don’t get any paid leave at all. Neither do sons and daughters struggling to take care of their aging parents. None of this is fair to families.

Hillary’s childcare policies, in contrast are**:

  1. Guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leaveto care for a new child or a seriously ill family member, and up to 12 weeks of medical leave to recover from a serious illness or injury of their own.
  2. Ensure Americans get at least two-thirds of their current wages, up to a ceiling, while on leave.
  3. Impose no additional costs on businesses, including small businesses.
  4. Fund paid leave by making the wealthy pay their fair share—not by increasing taxes on working families.She said she would pay for this through tax reforms that will ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.

I guess it’s too late to weigh up their policies now that a decision has already been made on who will run the White House. I feel Clinton’s policies were better. But to be honest though, I think both Clinton and Trump’s policies have some way to go. Even if implemented, Trump or even Clinton’s policies would not have been the best in the world – not by a long way. And while Clinton said she would tax the rich and Trump said he would eradicate false benefit claims and grow the economy to fund his childcare policy changes, it’s still not clear how they would have initially funded this.

South Africa, a developing country, doesn’t have any laws that force companies to pay employers while on maternity leave. Paternity leave is also not available so the country where I live doesn’t have any great child care benefits either. Still, mothers in South Africa have to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) during maternity leave. But this still doesn’t cover the full salary lost.

But, unlike America, we can’t actually afford it. With severe poverty, health care problems and high tertiary education fees to contend with it’s unlikely that child care policies will be top of the list in South Africa any time soon.

Sadly, this may not be top of Trump’s priorities either when he sits down in the Oval Office. Even if he does introduce paid leave benefits to women for six weeks, it’s unlikely that this will help them in their careers. Now companies in the US may think twice before hiring or promoting a women that is of a child producing age. At least with Clinton’s policies both men and women would get paid leave and benefits.

And it’s not like I’m sucking this out of thin air. Studies have shown that when more generous benefits are given to women instead of men it can harm their salaries and chances of employment negatively.

The United States may have one of the biggest economies in the world but in one area it is certainly a loser: it is one of the few countries that does not guarantee paid leave for new mothers. This may change now that Trump is president. But with Trump’s views on women potentially transferring itself through to the workplace the paid maternity leave benefits may not be such an advantage after all.

*Source: www.donaldjtrump.com

** Source: www.hillaryclinton.com

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