America does plenty of things well, but paid parental leave isn't one of them.

Out of the world's 196 countries, the US is one of only four that has no federally mandated policy to give new parents paid time off. That burden is placed on individual states and employers.

But some countries really prioritize the well-being of new parents — both straight and same-sex — granting them more than a year of leave at full pay.

If you're thinking of starting a family, here are the ideal places to call home.


Expecting mothers in Finland can start their maternity leave seven weeks before their estimated due date.

After that the government covers 16 additional weeks of paid leave through a maternity grant, regardless of whether the mother is a student, unemployed, or self-employed. The country also offers eight weeks of paid paternity leave.

After a child turns three, parents can also take partial care leave, in which they split time between home and work. That lasts until the child starts second grade.


New moms in Denmark get a total of 18 weeks of maternity leave: four weeks before the birth and 14 weeks after, all at full pay. During the 14-week period, the father can also take two consecutive weeks off.

From that point on, parents can split 32 additional weeks of leave however they see fit. They can extend the leave for another 14 weeks if the child or parent gets sick. By law, the government covers 52 weeks of pay, though not always at the full salary.


New parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80% of their normal pay. That's on top of the 18 weeks reserved just for mothers, after which the parents can split up the time however they choose.

Sweden is unique in that dads also get 90 paid paternity days reserved just for them. The idea is to promote bonding between father and child during a time when moms are getting most of the attention.


Mothers in Belgium can take up to 15 weeks for maternity leave — for the first 30 days after the child is born, they get paid 80% of their salary, and they get 75% for the rest of the time. Dads are given 10 days, three of which are 100% pay. The remaining seven are paid at 82% their salary if they use them during the baby's first four months.

If they want, moms can take eight months of part-time leave instead of the 15 full weeks.


Icelandic parents can split their nine months of post-childbirth leave straight down the middle.

New moms get three months, new dads get three months, and then it's up to the couple to decide how they'll split the remaining three months. Neither parent can transfer any portion of their three-month chunk, however, as the government wants to ensure both parents can work and that kids get to spend time with both.

Each parent receives 80% of their salary while on leave.


Mothers can take 20 weeks of fully paid leave after giving birth.

After that, they get an additionally full year of leave, but compensation diminishes over time. They receive 100% pay for the first 26 weeks, 60% for weeks 27-39, and 30% for weeks 40-52.

Fathers get one week of fully paid leave.


Norway's system is flexible and generous. Mothers can take 35 weeks at full pay or 45 weeks at 80% pay, and fathers can take between zero and 10 weeks depending on their wives' income.

Together, parents can receive an additional 46 weeks at full pay or 56 weeks at 80% of their income.


Hungarian moms get 24 weeks of paid leave at 70% of their salary, which can start up to four weeks before the expected delivery date. Fathers get one week paid in full.

After the 24 weeks of maternity leave, parents can take another 156 weeks, split between them. The time off is paid at 70% of their salary for 104 weeks, and a flat rate covers the rest.


Mothers in Estonia are given 140 days of fully paid pregnancy and maternity leave, which may begin 30-70 days before the expected delivery date.

Similar to the Nordic countries to the north, fathers in Estonia are given two weeks of paid time off to promote extra bonding with their child. They can also chose to take some of the time off during the final two months before the expected delivery date.

After maternity leave ends, parents get an additional 435 days off to share, with compensation calculated at the average of their two earnings.


Nordic countries get a lot of attention for their generous leave policies, but Lithuania may beat them all.

New moms get 18 weeks of fully paid leave, new fathers get four weeks, and together the parents get an additional 156 weeks to share.

For the shared portion, the parents can decide whether to have it paid out at 100% for the first 52 weeks (until the child is turns 1) or 70% for the first 104 weeks (until the child is 2 years old). The remaining weeks are unpaid.