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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Germany and the Nordic countries have topped a list of 21 high-income nations when it comes to generosity of paid parental leave, with Australia and the United States tying in last place.
Researchers associated with the U.S.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research examined the parental leave policies of 21 countries with their study published in the peer-reviewed social science Journal of European Social Policy.
They found Sweden ranked highest for gender equality in parental leave practices, while Germany and Sweden were the most generous with paid parental leave, both offering 47 weeks.
They were followed by Norway offering 44 paid weeks, Greece with 34 weeks, Finland with 32 weeks and Canada with 29 weeks.
Neither the United States nor Australia guarantee any paid parental leave and were tied for the lowest ranking in terms of overall generosity of paid leave.
"The United States (and Australia have) the least generous parental leave policies of all 21 economies compared in this study," said researcher Janet Gornick.
"We pay a high price for our meager policy, because parental leave improves the health and well-being of children and their parents and paid leaves provide families with crucial economic support at such an important time."
The study looked at parental leave policies according to three criteria: total time guaranteed for parental leave and whether paid or unpaid, total paid leave, and gender equality of the parental leave such as leave and pay available to fathers.
Gornick said while all 21 countries protected at least one parent's job for a period, there were great differences across these countries on each of the three criteria.
France and Spain came highest in terms of total guaranteed leave, each giving over 300 weeks, while Switzerland and the United States ranked at the bottom, with 24 and 14 weeks respectively.
Australia and Switzerland ranked near the bottom in terms of both generosity and gender equality of parental leave.
While bottom of the paid leave table, the United States scored better on the gender equality index, coming 10th in the list.
Japan ranked near the bottom of the gender equality index at 19 but came 7th in terms of overall generosity for giving 26 weeks of paid parental leave.
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Michael Perry