By: Samantha Savvidou

Millennials like me are witnessing the highest levels of income inequality since the Great Depression and feel the impact on working families- our own families.During the Great Recession, we saw our parents, aunts, and uncles struggle financially after being laid off. Like most other middle class families, when I was a child, my family lived comfortably. I lived in a modest sized house in a quiet neighborhood. We had food on the table and I attended weekly dance classes. When I was about 11 years old, however, things started to change. Arguments about money frequently erupted, and things fell off balance. Fortunately, even with lay-offs, my family made it though. We still had food on the table, and I still went to my dance classes. Other families were not so lucky and still haven’t fully recovered from the Recession. Millennials like me now see the trouble ahead, and we’re worried.

As a social work student in college, I learned in depth about systemic issues such as racism and poverty, and the way in which they manifest in our society every day through our nation’s policy priorities. I learned about the detrimental consequences of income inequality as well as the lack of benefits that workers receive in our nation. During my first semester as a MSW intern with the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, Chair of the Campaign for Paid Family Leave, I’ve learned more and more about how income inequality is compounded by our state’s, and our nation’s, lack of paid family and medical leave. Millennials, now the largest represented generation in the workforce need to know more about why paid family leave matters, and why we need to join the fight for it.

You might be wondering, “What’s the big deal with paid family leave?” Here in Connecticut, the Campaign for Paid Family Leave, a coalition of over 60 different organizations representing the needs of women, children and families, is advocating for a statewide system of paid family and medical leave that will allow workers to care for themselves, an ill loved one or a new baby without financial penalty. This results in less stress for employees, higher morale, and less turnover rates and retention costs for employers. It’s a win-win for everyone.

So why should millennials care about paid leave? I’ll give you 4 reasons.

  • We’re struggling financially as it is!

Millennials are having a harder time making ends meet than our parents. Our generation is facing higher rates of poverty, lower incomes and increased student loan debt than our parents had at the same age – all factors that aren’t exactly encouraging us to start families of our own. More than 44 million Americans are currently crippled with student loan debt and are paying, on average, $351 per month towards student loans. Many of us are finding ways to make ends meet, but just one emergency – either a personal health scare or a loved one falling ill – is all it takes to send us spiraling into debt. Paid family and medical leave for all workers would provide a safety net to prevent this from happening.

  • We care about flexible work policies.

Our generation has witnessed more opportunities to reach our goals and achieve our dreams. Recent research suggests that millennials value increased flexibility and paid parental leave more than previous generations and we’re happier, more engaged employees while working for companies that offer such policies.  A growing list of corporations including Facebook, Google, and Etsy recognize these desires and offer paid leave benefits to attract the brightest and best workforce. We want to succeed and move up in our own workplaces, but we also want to prosper personally and need policies to help us do so. Paid leave is one way to help us succeed and improve our quality of life.

  • We need a way to care for our aging parents and family members.

Seniors aged 65 and older are the fastest growing age group in the U.S. We want to be able to care for our parents and grandparents as they age, but today’s economic circumstances simply do not allow it. Workers today can barely afford to take time off to tend to an older parent’s or relative’s needs for the short term, and it is even more difficult to do so for the long term. Emergencies can happen at any time, whether it involves a grandparent, parent or sibling. We want to be there for our family members when things go awry. Paid leave will help us care for the people we love while maintaining the job that we need.

  • We have the power to change the narrative.

Millennials everywhere are speaking up about many pressing issues, from workplace policies that better support families to protecting the environment. Millennials are now the largest generation represented in the workforce and we have the power and strength in numbers to influence our legislators about the change we want to see. Let’s make it clear that we want paid family leave now. Baby boomers and Generation X’ers will thank us for it!

Now is the time for Paid Family Leave, not just for millennials, but for everyone living and working in Connecticut. I’m excited to engage my friends, family, and classmates in the Campaign and join advocates in fighting for paid at the legislative level. Want to get involved? Two words: social media. First, Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Then, add your story to our Story Bank or a picture to our Photo Campaign. Learn more here:

Samantha Savvidou is a Masters of Social Work student at UCONN and Public Policy intern for the CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).