FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Guaranteed Paid Sick Days Could Boost U.S. Job Growth

After President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the discussion has largely focused on his tax proposals. While these are important measures, two other areas he addressed raise issues that will have at least as many consequences.

Starting with the positive, Obama called on Congress to pass legislation for paid sick days, guaranteeing that all workers have the option to take at least seven days a year off from work due to illness or the need to care for an ill family member. This one should be pretty straightforward.

As two-income households are now the norm for couples, and single parents raise close to 40% of U.S. kids, many workers will need time off from their jobs to take care of sick family members, in addition to the occasions where their own illness keeps them from working. In these situations, workers shouldn’t have to worry about missing a day of pay or possibly losing their job.

Paid sick days is hardly an alien concept. Every other wealthy country has required employers to provide paid sick days for decades. Several state and local governments now do the same. In fact, more than half of the work force (largely the better-paid half) already has paid sick days.

Employers have learned to live with allowing their workers paid sick days. Invariably, they report that the cases of abuse are rare. Most people don’t take half the days to which they are entitled. And, as a practical matter, what employer wants someone running around the office sneezing on their co-workers? Or better yet, on their customers’ food? This one is just common sense.

There is another aspect to paid sick days or any paid time off that is generally overlooked. With unemployment still holding back the economy (or “secular stagnation” to use the now fashionable term), reducing the average hours of those with jobs can increase the number of jobs.

To take some simple arithmetic, if paid sick days or other forms of leave reduced average hours by 2%, this should open the door for 2%, or 2.8 million, more workers to be hired. In reality, the relationship will never be this simple, but the basic point holds. Germany has full employment not because its economy grew more than America’s, but partly because its workers put in 20% fewer hours.

If paid sick days are the good part of the State of the Union, President Obama’s renewed calls for fast-track trade authority is the bad part. The trade deals that are on the table now are not about reducing trade barriers and expanding trade. With few exceptions, tariffs have already been reduced to near zero and most other formal trade barriers have already been eliminated.

Rather than being about trade, these “trade” deals are a mechanism through which our largest corporations can get business-friendly regulations that would never have a chance in Congress. For example, three years ago the Stop On-line Piracy Act (SOPA) got beaten back due to massive grassroots opposition. Since the entertainment industry knows they may never get SOPA through Congress, they will try to get key parts of it in these trade deals.

The same is true of Pharma’s push for higher drug prices here and elsewhere; the financial industry’s efforts to evade Dodd-Frank and similar regulation, and the oil industry’s efforts to stop fracking bans and other environmental regulation.

Studies have shown that trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact would have a minuscule impact on growth or jobs and are simply backdoor tools for allowing business to get special interest rules that they could not get approved otherwise.

Trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact are simply backdoor tools for allowing business to get special interest rules that they could not get approved otherwise.

It is unfortunate that President Obama had to ruin his State of the Union Address with his appeal for these pacts.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

This article originally appeared in Fortune.

More articles by:

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail