The decision to become a parent is not one that should be taken lightly. There are many logistics that should be taken into consideration, such as the health of the parents, financial status, and especially whether or not your job offers paid parental leave.
If you live in the United States, chances are the answer is varying degrees of no. The U.S is one of only four first world countries that doesn't mandate maternity leave at all, which means it's largely left up to the individual employers. Thankfully, there are some countries out there that understand the importance of supporting their child-bearing employees.
These are the ten best countries in the world for maternity leave, in no particular order, according to UNICEF, The Organization for Economic Co-operation of Development (OCED), and the International Labor Organization.
Sweden’s parental leave policy is the stuff that dreams are made of; both the mother and father are allowed a total of 480 days of leave. That adds up to about one year and four months!
The couple is then allowed to split this time up however they see fit, but the father is mandated to take at least 60 of the days. Instead of their full salary, parents are eligible to receive up 80 percent of their normal salary. All in all, this is one of the best options available worldwide, meaning that Sweden would be a fantastic place to have a baby right now.
Bulgaria offers mothers 110 weeks—that's just over two years—of maternity leave. Though this will give new mothers ample time to bond with their children, they’re only paid 59 percent of their salary. As Romper points out, this is the equivalent of being allowed 65 weeks at 100 percent salary. Still not bad!
In addition to that, fathers and grandparents are also allowed to take a stint of parental leave, but it's only in case the mother isn't able or doesn't want to. It may not be a top-tier plan, but it definitely beats others!
Norway’s parental leave policy is slightly less generous than some of the other countries on this list, but it’s still better than the majority of the world’s.
In Norway, parents are allowed a combined total of 49 weeks of parental leave at 100 percent salary. If they want to extend it by an extra 10 weeks for a total of 59, then the salary drops down to 80 percent. How the time is split is left up to each individual couple, but mothers are required to start their leave three weeks before their due date.
Belgium allows mothers to take off 15 weeks of maternity leave. Mothers receive 100 percent of their salary for only one month. After that, they’ll receive 75 percent.This may not sound as generous as some other countries, but Belgium tries makes up for this in other ways.
Having a baby in Belgium is incredibly inexpensive, for starters. Most expenses are covered by the government. In addition to that, each child warrants a $1342 birth grant.
Lithuania also has a very generous parental leave policy. Mothers are allowed 18 weeks of maternity leave at full salary. Fathers are allowed four weeks at full salary. That may not seem like an awful lot, but it's vastly superior to the countries which don't offer any paternity leave at all.
After the baby is born, the parents have the option to split 152 more weeks—around three years—worth of parental leave. After two years, their salary drops down to 70 percent.
Iceland has one of the best maternity leave policies in the world. Mothers and fathers are allotted nine months total maternity leave at 80 percent of their salary. Each parent is required to take three months off from work.
The other three months can be split in whatever manner most benefits their family. For example, the mother could take over ten weeks, while the father takes two. Or they could split things down the middle and take six additional weeks each. As The List notes, the strides that Iceland has taken to become family friendly can mostly be credited to the women’s strike of 1975.
Estonia is probably one of the best countries to raise a family in. Unlike most countries, Estonia offers mothers 85 weeks, or just over a year and a half or maternity leave at full pay.
This appears to combine the length of time the mother can take off before she delivers, as well as the additional days that she and her husband or partner can split after the baby is born. In addition, parents are also allocated a child care allowance.
Portugal offers mothers four months of maternity leave at 100 percent salary.One month must be taken before the birth of the child. The mother must remain on leave for six consecutive weeks after the birth of the child.
If the mother needs more time, the leave can be extended up to 150 days, which is around five months, if the extra months is shared by the parents. Portugal also makes special allowances for multiple births.
Denmark allows mothers 18 weeks of maternity leave both before and after they give birth. During that time, fathers are allowed to take off two consecutive weeks to bond with their children and help take some of the responsibility off of their wives/partners.
From that point on, both parents are allowed to share 32 more weeks and, if needed, can get that extended for a total for 46 weeks.
Hungary offers one of the lengthiest maternity leaves in the world. Mothers start off with 24 weeks of maternity leave. At least three weeks must be taken before the baby is born.
In addition, the mother also has the option to take up to three years total off from work. During that time, they are eligible for 70 percent of their salary for the first 18 months. After, it drops to twice the amount of minimum wage.