Parental Leave

South Korean Dads Will Get World's Longest Paternity Leave Policy

South Korea announced a plan that will set them ahead of every other country in the world and miles ahead of the United States.

portrait of young asian family with baby relaxing in the living room

South Korea has announced a plan that will set them ahead of every other country in the world and miles ahead of the United States for its paid leave policy.

Announced on Jan. 9, South Korea’s Employment and Labor Minister Lee Jeong-sik unveiled plans the administrators are hoping will make life better for South Koreans and reverse the country’s record-low birth rate, VICE explains. The plan will give both parents 18 months each of paid leave — representing the longest paternity leave policy for men in the world.

“Couples will each be allowed to take up to a year and a half off in parental leave, up from the current one year,” VICE reports. “Both parents are eligible so long as they’re working, though the pay structure for this new allowance is yet to be confirmed.”

The new paid leave structure plan hasn’t yet been put to vote, but South Korea will have the best paternity leave in the world if it passes. And it will add to what is already quite generous parental leave, which is the longest in Asia, VICE shares.

The proposed policy is a stark reminder that the U.S. doesn’t even come close to South Korea’s proposed parental leave. In reality, the U.S. ranks second to last out of 197 countries when it comes to paid leave, narrowly edging out Micronesia, which has a population of just over 115,000 people. The United States, which is among the wealthiest countries in the world, stands practically alone in not offering this basic benefit for new parents — not even a month of paid leave is offered to working parents federally.

Will the U.S. ever get close to South Korea’s potential policy? Not likely, but we can still hope. President Joe Biden attempted to push legislation in 2021 that would have given paid parental leave for both parents for up to four weeks. The plans were part of his major spending programs, but quickly fell apart due to partisan stonewalling, and the legislative issue hasn’t taken the spotlight since then, leaving parents without a paid leave policy at work in the dust.