WASHINGTON — President Obama said Monday that the challenges facing working mothers and fathers are all too often "the result of outdated policies and old ways of thinking" that should be changed.
Speaking to a supportive crowd at the White House Summit on Working Families, Obama urged government and businesses to adopt or expand policies for family leave, child care, flexible work hours and an increase in the minimum wage.
"These are not frills," Obama said. "They are basic needs."
Much of the focus of the all-day summit, which brought together business and political leaders, was on women and child care in the workplace.
"Many women can't even get a paid day off to give birth," Obama said. "Now that's a pretty low bar."
There is only one developed country that does not mandate paid maternity leave, Obama said, "and that is us. And that is not the list you want to be on by your lonesome."
Obama, who has made women voters a key part of his political constituency, said, "When women succeed, America succeeds, so there's no such thing as a women's issue. ... There's a family issue and an American issue."
The president criticized Congress for not passing his proposals.
Congressional Republicans said the Democrats have blocked their plans to enact more flexible work hours.
"Senate Republicans have long called for greater flexibility in the workplace, particularly giving private-sector employees the type of voluntary flex time that federal employees in the Obama administration already have available to them," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.