Businesses in Milwaukee are fighting a referendum that mandates up to nine days of paid sick leave for all employees working within the city. Voters overwhelmingly approved the referendum this past November, but last week a coalition of business owners got a court to slap a restraining order on its implementation. The measure will be debated in the court in detail beginning in May.

Meanwhile, the “Agenda” section of says that “Barack Obama and Joe Biden will require that employers provide seven paid sick days per year.” That’s a pretty clear signal.

Change like this–the government’s mandating employers to provide paid sick leave–may take awhile to implement given the worrisome nature of the economy, but my guess is that it won’t be long before paid leave is the law of the land.

The thought may freak out some business owners, but a survey of world policy toward paid leave shows that the U.S. is way, way, way behind most nations of the world, even ones where one might attach the “third world” moniker.

Take the issue of maternity/paternity leave, the paid variety. Gabon offers 14 weeks of 100-percent-of-salary paid leave to the mother, with job protection. Mexico offers 12 weeks at 100 percent, Peru 90 days at full salary. China tenders 90 days at 100 percent, but Japan–the world’s second largest economy behind ours–offers 14 weeks but at just 60 percent of wages.

Take a trip across the pond to our neighbors in Europe, and you’ll find some really generous packages: All working parents in Sweden are entitled to 16 months paid leave per child, the cost being shared between employer and state. France has a sliding scale starting at 14 weeks and rising in length as the number of children in the family increases.

Five countries in the world do not offer some form of paid parental leave: Australia, the United States, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. However, most employees in Australia are entitled to at least 12 months’ unpaid leave for the primary caregiver, and new parents are able to receive a Baby Bonus of A$5000.

At least no one in Washington is proposing Sweden-like benefits. Yet.