The Countries With The Best Work-Life Balance

Getting the dynamic between work and other aspects of life can get real tricky. Which countries are getting it right? Here are the countries which have the best work-life balance:

This comes from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) latest findings. Work-life balance is one of the metrics taken into account in the computation of the Better Life Index among the 38 countries considered by OECD.

The index measures the quality of life of a country based on 11 factors OECD deemed as essential:

    1. Income and wealth
    2. Jobs and earnings
    3. Housing
    4. Health Status
    5. Work and Life balance
    6. Education and skills
    7. Social networks/community
    8. Civic engagement and governance
    9. Environmental quality
    10. Personal security/ safety
    11. Life satisfaction

Assessing work-life balance

To quantify a country’s work-life balance, OECD took into account the following factors:

01. Employees working very long hours (in percentage)

OECD computed for the proportion of those employed whose usual weekly hours exceed 50.

02. Time devoted to leisure and personal care (in minutes per day)

OECD computed for the amount of time (in minutes) spent by full-time, employed people on leisure and personal care activities.

OECD defines leisure as activities like:

  • walking and hiking
  • sports, entertainment and cultural activities
  • socializing with friends and family, volunteering
  • taking a nap
  • playing games
  • watching television
  • using computers
  • recreational gardening, etc.

Meanwhile, OECD includes the following as personal care activities:

  • sleeping (but not taking a nap)
  • eating and drinking,
  • other household or medical or personal services (hygiene, visits to the doctor, hairdresser, etc.)


Leading the list would be Netherlands, earning a rating 0f 9.5 on a scale where 0 indicates the worst balance and 10 indicates the best balance. This is followed by Italy with a close 9.4. Denmark gets the third place with a still impressive 9.0.

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The Netherlands only has 0.4 percent of employees working long hours. The average time dedicated by full-time employees to leisure and personal care in the Netherlands exceeds the OECD average of 15 hours. 

The flip side

What about the other end of the spectrum? Which countries were deemed the worst when it comes to work-life balance?

It turns out, the United States is among the worst performers in work-life balance. It was given a rating of 6.0,  ranking it 27th out of the 38 countries. This makes the US, the 11th worst country in work-life balance. 11.1% of Americans are observed to be working long hours.  However, the worst performer is Colombia, which was rated by OECD with a 0.9.

Stepping back

Overworking accounts for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in the US alone. This is aside from the health costs — the price overworked employees have to pay.

Perhaps it is about time to step back and see our employees as humans who also have lives beyond the walls of the workplace. Apart from gaining profit, companies should also start considering the well-being of those who work for them.

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