This might not come as a surprise to some, but according to a new study in comparison to other countries around the world, the U.S. has been left behind when it comes to working women, reports Forbes. Although women made great strides in the workforce since the 1970s, that growth has flat-lined since the 1990s, according to a new paper from researchers Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn.
This isn’t the case in other countries, where the growth has continued. Here are the numbers: “In 1990, women’s participation rate in the labor force was 74 percent, ranking us at number six among 22 developed countries,” writes the magazine. But since then, the numbers have only increased to 75.2; other countries examined saw a boost from about 67 percent to nearly 80 percent. America currently ranks 17 on the list.
The authors of the paper theorize that it is government policies that have caused fewer women to enter the workforce. The authors looked at policies such as parental leave, the protection of part-time work, and public spending on child care — and America falls far behind on all three. While the U.S., for example, passed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, mandating up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for those who had been at a company for a year that has over 50 employees, other countries have generally mandated paid leave that is longer and have expanded it since the ’90s, says Forbes. And, other nations actually increased spending on child care at a faster pace than the U.S. over the past two decades, from .35 percent of GDP to .47 percent, while America spent .03 percent and have only brought that up to .11.
On the downside, some of these policies other countries have the “longer, paid leaves may encourage women to stay out for more time and may make companies view women as more expensive hires if they’re more likely to take leave.” Women in countries that have such job protection policies are also more likely to work part-time.