Maternity Leave Policies Around the World: A Comparative Analysis


Maternity leave is a crucial aspect of a country’s social and labor policies, as it directly impacts the well-being of mothers, newborns, and families. It also plays a significant role in promoting gender equality in the workplace. This article explores maternity leave policies in various countries, highlighting differences and similarities, and their implications for working mothers.

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United States: A Limited Safety Net

The United States is known for having one of the least generous maternity leave policies among developed nations.

    • Length: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth or adoption.
    • Paid Leave: The U.S. does not provide paid maternity leave at the federal level, relying instead on state laws and individual employer policies.

United Kingdom: A Balanced Approach

The UK has established a middle-ground maternity leave policy that balances support for working mothers and the interests of employers.

Sweden: A Generous Model

Sweden’s maternity leave policy is considered one of the most progressive in the world.

    • Length: Parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, which can be shared between the mother and father as they see fit.
    • Paid Leave: The benefit is generally around 80% of a parent’s salary, making it one of the most generous paid leave systems globally.

Japan: Striving for Work-Life Balance

Japan’s maternity leave policies reflect its efforts to promote work-life balance.

Canada: A Comprehensive Approach

Canada adopts a comprehensive maternity leave policy aimed at supporting working parents.

Norway: Prioritizing Equality

Norway is known for its gender-equal approach to parental leave.

    • Length: Parents are entitled to a total of 49 weeks of parental leave, with 15 weeks reserved for the mother, 15 weeks for the father, and the remaining 19 weeks can be shared as desired.
    • Paid Leave: Parents receive nearly 100% of their salary during parental leave, making it highly supportive of families.


Maternity leave policies around the world vary significantly, reflecting the unique social, economic, and cultural contexts of each country. While some nations prioritize generous, paid leave to support new mothers and families, others offer limited or unpaid leave options. As discussions around gender equality and work-life balance continue, these policies will likely evolve to better meet the needs of modern families. Understanding these global differences can inform discussions on how to improve maternity leave policies for the benefit of working mothers worldwide.

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