Finland has been making the news lately for its new widely praised, federally mandated parental leave policy. The new policy will take effect in the fall of 2021 at the earliest and grants nearly 7 months of leave each to the mother and father of a new baby. The legislation is hailed for prioritizing children and aiding family bonding.
By contrast, America is frequently criticized, perhaps most especially by Americans themselves, for its lack of federally mandated paid parental leave. Current leave policies vary widely by company and income level. Some employers do not offer any paid time off or specially designated maternity leave after a female employee has a baby, while other companies provide paid leave for both parents. Supporters of mandated paid leave say it would improve family bonding and help women re-enter the workforce after childbirth, but they fail to provide a solid financial plan detailing who will pay mothers and fathers to not work for several months.
If the financial burden for paid parental leave is shifted to companies (which is highly unlikely, since business interest groups influence policy-making), then smaller companies would go out of business and larger companies would enact large scale layoffs. It isn’t profitable for companies to pay employees to not work for extended periods of time.
While liberals often clamor for more government services, they typically overlook who actually pays for those services: we the people. Finland is lauded for its generous social programs, but its income tax rates are among the top 5 highest in Europe. Rates vary by income level, but Finnish citizens working an average-paying job pay an average rate of 28% in taxes to their government. Some high earners pay as much as 60%. By contrast, the average American’s tax burden is 13.5 %.
Finland has also imposed a tax on soft drinks, and the government plans to increase this tax in 2020. All American states have so far rejected any proposed taxes on soft drinks, but several cities such as Boulder, Colorado, and Berkeley, California have local taxes on the sugary drink.
America’s current maternity leave isn’t fair, but life in a free society isn’t fair. Citizens can choose to earn money in the workforce, or they can choose to stay home and care for their children. If governments artificially inject money into the economy by paying 60-80% of a worker’s wages for several months of parental leave, then they have to somehow extract that money from its citizens.
Higher taxes are the go-to tools for funding liberal policies. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and parents will ultimately pay for their childcare in one of three ways: directly, by writing a check to a daycare center; indirectly, by sacrificing income in order for one parent to care for the kids; or circuitously, by paying higher taxes and taking home smaller paychecks.
The more we depend on big government services, the more we are beholden to them and the less freedom of choice we retain. Finland is being praised for its liberal parental leave policies, but its citizens are sacrificing more of their paychecks to high-income taxes and levies on consumer goods in order to receive mass handouts from their government. Their system is unsustainable without continually increasing taxes, and it is not a model America should aspire to.