International Maternity Leave Benefits


Using UNdata – a data access system for UN databases, I found data relevant to maternity leave benefits around the world. With this data I wanted to analyze:

  • How does time off and amount paid compare?
  • Which countries are the highest and lowest in terms of wages and time off?

Before I began working in CartoDB, I found inspiration from other web sources that used data similar to the UNdata information I wanted to use to create map visualizations. The WORLD Policy Analysis Center has a color-coded infographic whose legend (five color buckets, red to green) organizes data by the amount of paid leave available for mothers of infants. I like their display as it is familiar and informative. I also really like the ability to hover over countries for their name and amount of time off. This summer, Time included a map in an article about paternity leave. Only using two colors – light red to indicate that a country’s national laws include maternity leave but not paternity leave and dark red to indicate that the country’s national laws include both maternity and paternity leave – they also use a hover and/or click method to get additional data about a county. Finally, Buzzfeed staff created an infographic that is a series of maps that outline government-subsidized paid maternity leave (available to mothers only) and family leave (available to either parent) around the world. They too used colors to explain time off. Although I did not do this in my visualizations, I like they chose to center upon groups of countries whether it be via continent or clusters of countries who have a close proximity to each other. Being able to list each country by name as well as find average amount of time for each map, the more detailed approach is very valuable. 

The data set for this lab consists of 181 countries. After importing the data into CartoDB and trying to work with it, I realized that I would not get any useful visualizations if I did not clean it up a bit. I reformatted merged cells and normalized the percentages of wages paid in covered period to the highest amount mothers can legally be given per country. I did the same methodology with the amount of time off (i.e. 120-150 days to 150 days). Additionally, I trimmed the provider of benefits column to account for inconsistent capitalization and over explanations beyond “Social Security”, “Employer”, etc. The most laborious of my cleaning was normalizing the dates. I chose to round up to the largest unit of time possible (i.e. 90 days to 3 months). I found that this would make more meaningful maps in comparing amount of time off across the world. Despite any modification I made to better suit the data for my own purposes, I encourage users to look at the source data and its footnotes for fuller explanations of any data points you may find in this report.

My first map is a choropleth that uses Jenks quantification to show percentages of wages paid. On a “Toner Lines” basemap, a color ramp of seven buckets expresses the percents from thirty to one hundred. My infowindows appear on hover and click with the following information: country/area, percent of wage paid, and provider of benefit. Eleven countries have null values in terms of percentages of wages paid; 122 legally offer up to one hundred percent compensation.

My second map is a category map. It uses the “measurement of time off” column to create a color scheme based on the unit of time off: weeks, months, year, and years. On a “Positron” basemap, infowindows upon hover and click to show: country/area, time off, unit of time off, and percentage of wage paid. An intense majority of the world offers a range of months for time off. Six offer one year; one offers over one year.

The country that offers over one year of time off is Sweden with 1.32 years. Interestingly, it offers eighty percent of wages paid (provided by Social Insurance) compared to the other countries that offer a larger amount of time – one year – where five out of seven offer one hundred percent. Overall, this proves that a high amount of time off does not always equate to the highest possible percent of wage to be paid. It is consistently high, but not the highest. This is further emphasized when looking at countries that have less than two months off that offer one hundred percent of wages paid such as Bahrain and Nepal who offer 1.5 months off and 1.8 months off respectively. Looking at these two maps, it seems that while the world is progressing further and further into offering one hundred percent of wages paid (dark blue on the first map) time off has settled in to the “months” time range. Additionally, I do not think provider of benefits are a good predictor of what a working mother will receive. Countries with one hundred percent wags vary between employer, social security, etc. with no real pattern that I could discern.

Looking to the future, I would like to compare this data with something complimentary such as amount of births per country per year to examine questions like – do high (and conversely low) birth rates effect benefits? This information can also be juxtaposed with employment rates, national income, and the like. I would also like to do a deeper analysis continent by continent to find out which have the best benefits and establish continental averages of my findings and summaries similar to what can be seen in the Buzzfeed example provided above. Then, I could couple those visualizations with some supplemental graphs as seen in the WORLD Policy Analysis Center inspiration.