May 28, 2024

On-the-Record Press Call by Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein and Council of Economic Advisers Member Heather Boushey on the 30th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act

On-the-Record Press Call by Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein and Council of Economic Advisers Member Heather Boushey on the 30th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act

MR. MUNOZ:  Hi everybody.  This is Kevin Munoz.  Thank you for joining us for today’s call where we’ll discuss tomorrow’s Family and Medical Leave Act anniversary event. 
 
This call, as a reminder, will be embargoed until tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. Eastern and on the record.  We will share a paper very soon, and I will make sure that you will have it. 
 
On today’s call, we have Jennifer Klein, Director of the Gender Policy Council, and Heather Boushey, member of the Council of Economic Advisers.  They will both have remarks.  And after that, we’ll do a few questions. 
 
So, with that, I will kick it to Jen.
 
MS. KLEIN:  Thanks, Kevin.  Tomorrow, President Biden is hosting an event in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.  He’ll be joined by Vice President Harris, several members of his Cabinet, and will welcome President Bill Clinton back to the White House to celebrate the first bill that President Clinton signed in office. 
 
The Family and Medical Leave Act came about after years of work by advocates and members of Congress — including support from President Biden, as senator, and from an historic number of women trailblazers in Congress, some of whom will also join the President at the White House tomorrow. 
 
This event is a moment to recognize the difference that the Family and Medical Leave Act has made and continues to make for millions of Americans, ensuring that they can take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a new child, a sick family member, or themselves without the risk of losing their jobs or health insurance. 
 
The President will recognize the work that remains to be done to support workers including by reaffirming this administration’s commitment to passing a national paid family and medical leave program. 
 
And he will also discuss recent actions the administration has taken to support women in the workplace, including through the end-of-year omnibus, which included the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP Act for Nursing Mothers, as well as significant investments in childcare. 
 
Thanks to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, pregnant and postpartum workers will be guaranteed a right to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, including basic commonsense accommodations, like bathroom breaks and light duty. 
 
And the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act extends break time and private space protections for nursing parents to nearly 9 million workers, including teachers, nurses, and farmworkers. 
 
The President is also committed to additional executive actions to help expand leave for Americans.  Tomorrow, President Biden will build on these efforts with a presidential memorandum that will ensure the federal government is a model employer by allowing employees time away from work to care for themselves and a loved one. 
 
First, the presidential memorandum calls on heads of federal agencies to support access to leave without pay for federal employees for parental caregiving, medical, military exigency, and bereavement reasons, especially during their first year of service before they are eligible for FMLA leave or paid parental leave. 
 
Second, the presidential memorandum directs the Office of Personnel Management to provide recommendations for actions to support federal employees’ access to paid leave and leave without pay for reasons related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including for non-medical reasons that are not currently covered in leave policies, like seeking relocation and taking related legal action. 
 
These and other steps that we’ve taken will make a meaningful difference for workers and for women’s economic security, but there’s obviously more work to do. 
 
We’ll continue to fight efforts by Republicans in Congress to strip away the historic funding for childcare secured in the year-end omnibus bill or to use critical policies for working families as bargaining chips. 
 
We’ll continue to fight for a national paid family and medical leave program so workers do not have to choose between caring for themselves or a loved one and keeping a paycheck. 
 
And we’ll continue to fight and work with states to protect access to women’s reproductive rights where we can and ensure that women are able to make decisions about when and how to start or grow their families on their own terms. 
 
As part of our efforts to support women and families, the administration remains committed to working with states on opportunities to expand access to paid family and medical leave, which is why earlier today Senior Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Chávez Rodriguez and I convened state legislators who are working to advance bills this session that would create statewide paid family and medical leave programs. 
 
Our work to promote women’s economic security is a key administration priority.  Of course, we know that when women succeed, so do our families and our economy.
 
I’m going to now turn to my colleague, Heather Boushey, to share more in the role that both care and women’s labor force participation play in driving our economic growth. 
 
Heather, over to you.
 
MS. BOUSHEY:  Wonderful.  Thank you, Jen.  And thank you for folks being on the call.  I want to just spend a couple of minutes putting these policies into their larger economic context. 
 
We know that this basket of policies that make up the nation’s care infrastructure fosters the wellbeing of American families and it supports the supply and productivity of the American workforce.  And I’m going to focus on the second aspect.  As important as the wellbeing of families is, there are also significant economic implications. 
 
So, by our estimate, the U.S. economy was almost 10 percent larger in 2019 than it would have been without the increase in women’s employment and hours worked since 1970.  That is equivalent to $2.14 trillion in 2022 dollars, which is a significant difference in the size of our economy because of the added hours and employment of women. 
 
Indeed, on average, low- and middle-income families would have seen their incomes fall in the decades after 1979 had women not joined the labor market.  Their infrastructure — the childcare, the paid leave, the help for the aged — all of this supports broad-based engagement in the economy, and that’s good for us all. 
 
So, I want to go through a few facts.  First, a recent report estimates that about 56 percent of U.S. workers, or roughly 90 million people, have care responsibilities outside of their fulltime jobs.  This means that most workers need policies to help them address conflicts between their job and their care responsibilities. 
 
And while these responsibilities too often fall on women, they also fall on men.  Both men and women will need care infrastructure to support an aging population, for example.  And making it possible for both men and women to engage in paid employment is good for the economy. 
 
Indeed, when we look at the 30-year anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, we’ve seen that that has had an important effect on our economy.  Researchers have found, for example, that when you just look at the maternity leave aspects of unpaid leave, it increases the probability that mothers return to their jobs to the tune of 10 to 17 percent, depending on the parameters. 
 
That is very economically important.  It means that people are not turning over in their jobs.  It leads to higher productivity and greater job retention. 
 
But we know we have to do more work to improve access to family and medical leave, and family-friendly policies more generally, because the labor force participation among prime-age women and mothers has stagnated. 
 
While the pandemic laid bare the challenges for parents and caregivers in addressing conflicts between care and work, the existence of untapped labor supply among prime-age women predates the pandemic.  And indeed, the challenges of women’s labor force participation is a uniquely U.S. phenomena. 
 
One analysis suggests that the United States’ relative lack of policies to address work-family conflict, including parental leave and the availability of early care and education, partially accounts for women’s relatively low labor force participation relative to our economic competitors in the OECD.  
 
And this also then affects the failure of women’s labor force participation to grow since the early 2000s, as compared to other OECD countries. 
 
Among prime-age people not working in the United States, roughly half of them list care responsibilities as the main reason for not participating in the labor force. 
 
So, we know that care infrastructure supports family wellbeing.  We know that it boosts labor supply.  There’s a large literature that indicates this. 
 
Just to give you one data point: According to a review of the literature, a 10 percent reduction in the price of childcare would lead to an increase in maternal employment between 0.5 and 2.5 percent, boosting labor force participation.
 
Care industries however that disproportionately employ women, such as childcare and nursing and residential care, have remained woefully behind in the economic recovery. 
 
So, as of December of 2022, even though overall nonfarm payrolls were slightly above their level pre-pandemic in February of 2020, nursing and residential care employment was down 9.1 percent, child daycare employment was still down 7.6 percent, and total government education employment was down 2.2 percent. 
 
So, all of this indicates that these remain economic challenges and addressing them could go a long ways towards supporting our nation’s labor supply. 
 
Robust care policies support the care workforce as well, which undergirds the entirety of the American workforce. 
 
Thank you.
 
MR. MUNOZ:  Thanks, Heather and Jen.  We have time for a few questions.  First, let’s go to Catherine Lucey at the Journal.
 
Q    Hey, there.  Thank you for doing the call.  Can you hear me okay?
 
MR. MUNOZ:  Yeah.
 
Q    Great.  I was wondering if you could address whether the President will include paid leave in his budget proposal, as a number of Democrats on the Hill are calling on him to do?
 
MS. KLEIN:  Thanks, Catherine.  This is Jen.  I can’t confirm details related to the President’s budget for fiscal year 2024 prior to its release.  However, I can say that the President’s FY23 and FY22 budgets both reflected his ongoing support for national paid family and medical leave in this country. 
 
MR. MUNOZ:  All right, let’s go to Andrea Shalal at Reuters.
 
Q    Hey, thank you so much.  I just want to ask you about the significance of bringing Bill Clinton back.  I mean, is that — is there some sense that that will be a — kind of a political move?  Or is it really just, sort of, straight for the anniversary? 
 
And then on — further to the paid leave question, but just the care economy in general — I mean, the conventional wisdom is that a lot of the priorities that were included in the initial proposals from the Biden administration that have to do with the care economy are not going to happen.  Do you see path — a path to getting some of that done?  And if so, which items?  Thanks.
 
MS. KLEIN:  This is Jen.  I — on the first question, the significance of President Clinton being here was that — is that this was the first bill he signed, showing how important issues of family and medical leave and issues to support working families have been for Democrats for a very long time, and also to signal that this administration is going to continue to work on these issues. 
 
And the second — your second question about —
 
Q    The care economy.  Yeah. 
 
MS. KLEIN:  The care economy.  We’re going to continue to fight for the elements of the care economy for all of the reasons that Heather and I have just laid out, which is that it’s important to families, it’s important to businesses, and it’s important to our economy. 
 
So, that’s why — while we will do whatever we can do by executive action, we’ll also continue to support these policies, you know, in the — in the years ahead, you know, as the President has been fighting for. 
 
He included the care economy as an important plank of his economic agenda during the campaign, and he and this administration have been fighting for — to support people’s needs for care ever since and will continue to do that.
 
MS. BOUSHEY:  And it’s — and just to add — this is Heather.  To add just one thing, echoing Jen, you know, the President has continued to fight for them.  Jen outlined a number of ways that we saw wins in the legislation passed at the end of the year. 
 
So, I take your point, Andrea, that this might be a tough path, but it is — it is so important, and I just want to underscore our commitment to it and also the recent wins that show that progress can be made.
 
MR. MUNOZ:  Thanks.
 
Let’s go to Joyce Frieden at MedPage Today.
 
Q    Yeah, hi.  Thanks for taking my question.  This — these are for Heather.  First of all, could you clarify what you mean by “prime-age women”?  I think that’s the term I heard you use. 
 
And secondly, when you talked about the economic challenges that need to be tackled in order to improve the labor supply in nursing and other professions, can you specify what you meant there?
 
MS. BOUSHEY:  Happy to, Joyce.  So “prime age” — and that’s a great catch; I should have defined it — I mean workers aged 25 to 54.  And so, no diss on anybody who’s outside of that, but that is the — those are the workers that are not in school and they’re not close to retirement age.  And so, we consider those the prime-age labor force. 
 
And then to your second question, you know, we have been tracking quite closely the recovery from the pandemic recession.  And one of the things that, you know, we’ve been happy to see here has been the overall recovery of payroll employment, and yet there have been some sectors that have just lagged. 
 
And the fact that we have seen sectors like nursing and residential care, like child care not keeping pace with the rest of the economy does lead to questions about how families are able to adjudicate their care responsibilities and hold down jobs, especially as, because of the pandemic, we have been focused a lot on getting labor supply back to where it was and continuing to grow. 
 
So, those are the concerns that we are watching on a regular basis in terms of the economic recovery and how the care infrastructure is so important to that. 
 
MR. MUNOZ:  Thanks.
 
Last question.  Let’s go to Chris Marr at Bloomberg.
 
Q    Yes, hi.  Thanks.  You mentioned, you know, potential for executive actions to address some of these issues that, you know, arguably have a slim chance in Congress at the moment.  I’m curious if you could elaborate on what that might look like.  One — you know, one idea I’ve seen floated is, you know, requiring paid family leave for federal contractors. 
 
And then, also a related question.  You mentioned the issue of reproductive health.  Curious the thoughts on the White House considering a public health emergency for reproductive health.
 
MS. KLEIN:  Thanks, Chris.  On the last, the — we’ve been quite clear that we are considering every option.  Nothing is off the table.  But there is — there — we are not newly considering declaring a public health emergency on reproductive health. 
 
On the question about executive actions, let me just take a minute to tell you what the presidential memorandum that the President will be signing tomorrow will do, because it’s a great example of what we can do by executive action. 
 
So, it, you know, will help employees take time away from work to care for themselves and a loved one or loved ones in a couple of different ways. 
 
First, it encourages heads of federal agencies to support access to leave without pay for federal employees for parental leave, caregiving, medical, military, and bereavement, as I said earlier, especially during the first year of service before employee — federal employees are eligible for family and medical leave or for paid parental leave. 
 
And second of all, it asks the — directs the Office of Personnel Management to provide recommendations for actions to support federal employees’ access to paid leave and leave without pay for reasons relating to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 
 
So, this includes leave for non-medical reasons that aren’t currently covered in leave policies.  So, someone can get this leave to seek assistance from an organization that provides services to survivors or to look to relocate if they need to do that, to take related legal action, or to assist a family member with any of these kinds of activities.  So that’s an example of the kinds of actions that we can take. 
 
It does not and it cannot modify existing statutes that grant federal workers FMLA leave or paid parental leave, but instead it directs agencies to use their discretion under their existing authority to provide leave to workers.  And the goal here is really to advance a consistent policy across agencies.
 
MR. MUNOZ:  Great.  Well, thank you, everybody for joining.
 
As a reminder, this call and the factsheet that I sent during the call are embargoed till tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m. 
 
And if you have any questions, just let me know.  Have a good day.

END

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/02/02/on-the-record-press-call-by-gender-policy-council-director-jennifer-klein-and-council-of-economic-advisers-member-heather-boushey-on-the-30th-anniversary-of-the-family-and-medical-leave-act/