President Obama directed federal agencies to increase flex-time for government workers with families at the Working Families Summit Monday.
In an effort to further distinguish the administration from Republicans for the upcoming midterm election, Obama has placed this event on his agenda, along with a set of other social issues, such as job training, child care, gender equality and the minimum wage.
The presidential memorandum Obama signed introduces a variety of public and private sector efforts designed to help working families with work-life balance. The memorandum is specifically focused on pregnant women, apprenticeships for women and resources for encouraging women to enter STEM fields.
“Study after study shows that family friendly policies reduce workplace turnover and boost productivity,” Vice President Joe Biden said at the summit on Monday.
“Too many workplaces still have policies that belong in a Mad Men episode – not the year 2014,” a fact sheet released by the White House said.
According to the Obama administration, more people would enter the labor force if paid maternity and paternity policies were in place.
At the same time as the summit, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report on the economics of flexibility in the workplace, which is intended to provide a factual basis for family-friendly policy changes. Since 1976, the share of parents in full-time working families has increased by 82%. Women are still more likely to work in low-wage jobs and also more likely to be making minimum wage.
“Raising wages for women means raising income for families,” according to the report. The pay gap between men and women is important because women are “increasingly breadwinners in families.” The occupational gap between men and women has also shrunk.
While teachers, nurses, secretaries were mostly designated as female-oriented jobs, today’s female college graduations are just as likely to be employed as doctors, dentists, and lawyers.
“Unlike every other advanced country on Earth, we’ve sort of said this is something that individual families should deal with on their own instead of all of us as a community, as a nation,” Obama said in an interview with MSNBC, according to Businessweek.
However, Mike Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, was skeptical of the administration’s program.
“The White House continues to look for different ways to keep some of these issues in the news that they feel are advantageous to them from an election perspective, which includes issues like the minimum wage,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This feeds into this Summit being held today.”
“Setting aside their rhetoric,” Saltsman added, what we know from the evidence is that a higher minimum wage is not going to help working families and it’ll have a disproportionately negative effect on women.”
James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told TheDCNF that, “Requiring mandatory paid leave would effectively require working parents to accept an offsetting pay cut. Some families may welcome that trade-off but others with tight budgets would not. The government should not force all working families to take more time off work and accept lower wages.”
“Further, the president’s proposal to extend overtime requirements to salaried professional workers who make less than $50,000 a year will strongly discourage their employers from providing flexible work arrangements. Their employers will have to log their hours to calculate overtime obligations – even if they incur none,” he continued.
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