MEDIA RELEASE: Economist: North Carolina needs family-friendly policies to create 21st century workplaces

Speaking at NC Policy Watch luncheon, Dr. Heather Boushey backs paid sick days, flexible workplace schedule policies, and paid family medical leave

RALEIGH (April 14, 2010) - To support working families, lawmakers in North Carolina and nationally must act to update basic labor standards, an expert on work and family issues told a Raleigh audience today. Policies such as paid sick days, workplace flexibility and family medical leave also have broad support across the political spectrum.

Women are now almost exactly half of workers on U.S. payrolls. This dramatic shift from a generation ago, said renowned economist and workforce expert Dr. Heather Boushey, "has a ripple effect ... [creating] perhaps one of the greatest social transformations of all time."

This transformation creates a need for new labor standards, said Boushey, who spoke at NC Policy Watch's "Crucial Conversation" luncheon at Campbell Law School. With more women working, policies that assist working families with two breadwinners - such as paid family medical leave, flexible workplace policies and guaranteed paid sick days - are essential to build a 21st century economy.

"Now is precisely the time that we need to be thinking about these policies," said Boushey. "Making sure that no worker is fired due to a child-care emergency, or needing to pick up a sick parent or sick child is critical."

Today, a family with one male breadwinner and a stay-at-home wife is now quite rare - only 1 in 5 families meets this description. The most common family is a married couple with both parents working.

"This amplifies how important women are to their family's economics," said Boushey. Since the recession began, men have lost nearly 7 out of every 10 jobs lost. That has left millions of women to be their family's main breadwinner.

"This means issues like pay equity, and making sure women have economic opportunities, are more important now than they've ever been," said Boushey.

To create an economy that works for families means acknowledging these realities. "First, and most importantly, we need to update our basic labor standards," Boushey said.

Policies that support families, such as subsidized child care, also promote workplace productivity. In this way, Boushey said, supporting families also supports the economy.

This has political support as well as a strong economic rationale. The Shriver Report, a study Boushey worked on, did a large national poll surveying more than 3,000 people. Across the spectrum - young and old, liberal and conservative, men and women alike - Americans want policies that address work-family balance.

The poll found broad-based support for policies like workplace flexibility and paid family leave. For example, 65 percent of conservatives and 80 percent of moderates believe employers should be required to provide more workplace flexibility.

"These kind of family-friendly policy find support among voters who have historically supported a "family values" agenda, like evangelical Christians."

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