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During the previous Democratic debates, we wondered when paid parental leave would get some air time—and during the fifth debate on Wednesday night, it finally did.
This is so important because as Andrew Yang said during the debate: "There are only two countries in the world that don't have paid family leave for new moms: the United States of America and Papua New Guinea. That is the entire list and we need to get off this list as soon as possible."
(It seems unbelievable that nearly every single country in the world has beaten the United States to this important milestone, but the Washington Post fact-checked Yang and the statement is correct, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.)
American parents (moms and dads) need access to paid family leave, but new parents aren't the only Americans who need paid leave while doing unpaid care work, as Sen. Kamala Harris pointed out during the debate. The burden of caring not only for children, but also sick or elderly family members often falls to women, and doing this vital but unpaid work can cost women their savings and earning potential.
During the debate and on Twitter, Harris again said American workers should get six months of paid family leave. One of her fellow candidates, Sen. Klobuchar, also tackled the topic on the debate stage, noting that she's for half the amount of leave Harris wants. Klobuchar says that while she "would love" to see six months of paid leave, three months seems more realistic to her.
Wednesday night's conversation about paid leave was brief, but many paid leave advocates are happy the important issue got any time at all. "Tonight was a huge step forward in the fight for paid family and medical leave for the 113 million people without it today," says Katie Bethell, the Founder and Executive Director of PL+US in a statement to Motherly. "At last, the moderators and candidates are addressing the fact that voters overwhelmingly support policies that support families. Paid family and medical leave is a winning, bipartisan issue that charts the path to victory in the general election."
America needs paid family leave now, and the American people need to hear the candidates talk about how they plan to make it happen. Six of the candidates—Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Harris and Klobuchar—have already qualified for the next debate happening next month in Los Angeles.
(For more information on where the other candidates stand on paid leave, childcare costs and health care see our previous coverage).