Stressed at work and at home? Dream of hammock time with a margarita and good book or simply a Saturday afternoon sleep? Want more balance? Surely it’s possible. Head north. Way, way north. To nearly the top tip of the globe.
Denmark has won the gong from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for being the country with the best work-life balance. The mission of the OECD is to promote policies that “will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world”. They studied work-life balance because “evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardise safety and increase stress.”
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Their Better Life 2015 Index has crunched the world-wide numbers for work-life balance and found those Northern European countries know a thing or too about calbrating an individual’s work and play needs, while Australia ranked 7th last out of 36 countries. Turkey was the wooden spooner.
Here are the top five countries in terms of work-life balance and … then there is Australia.
In Denmark 2% of the country work very long hours compared with the OECD average of 13%. In Denmark the average worker devotes 16.1 hours to personal care (sleeping, eating etc) and leisure (socialising, TV, computers, hobbies etc) compared to the OECD average of 15. The standard working week is 37 hours with female employment rates high (79% for women aged 25-54). This high work place participation rate contributes to low child poverty rates (3.8%).
Policies in Denmark also provide extensive financial support and leave options to families with young children. This support continues into toddler years with ensuring available childcare places and out-of-school care places (used by around 80% of Danish children aged 6-8).
In Spain 6% of employees work very long hours compared to the OECD average of 13%. Like Denmark the Spaniards average 16.1 hours to personal care (sleeping, eating etc) and leisure (socialising, TV, computers, hobbies etc) compared to the OECD average of 15. Fertility rates in Spain are amongst the lowest in the OECD and 75% of mothers go back to work only eight years after childbirth. In order to combat the low birth rate, the Spanish Government has extended support to families to reduce the cost of childcare which has resulted in an increase in children attending. However, after-school care is limited and many working parents rely on grandparents as carers.
Less than 0.5% of employees work very long hours compared with the average of 13%. It is the lowest rate in the OECD. Time devoted to leisure and personal care is 15.4 hours compared to the OECD average of 15. In the Netherlands employment rates, parental education rates and fertility rates are higher than OECD averages. More than 93% of 11-15 year old children report above average life satisfaction and while the female employment rate is 69.9% compared to OECD average of 57.5% most women with families work part-time.
In Belgium 5% of employees work very long hours compared to the OECD average of 13%. In Belgium 15.7 hours a day are devoted to personal care and leisure compared to the OECD average of 15.
The Belgians are challenging conventional notions of working with the Belgian FPS Social Security creating a dynamic workplace focused on results and more flexible work structures. There is desk sharing and working from home with the aim of recruiting and retaining the most talented staff. The Belgium FPS has saved the federal government 6 million euro a year.
Around 3% of employees in Norway work very long hours, less than the OECD average of 13% with 15.6 hours spent personal care and leisure compared to OECD average of 15. Unlike other OECD countries women devote more time than men to personal care and leisure with female average being 16 hours a day compared to 15 for males.
Out of 36 countries, Australia comes in at 30. Just in front of Australia is the U.S. and the countries behind it are (in order): Japan, Israel, Korea, Chile, Mexico and Turkey.
In Australia 14% of employees work very long hours compared to the OECD average of 13%. The average daily time spent on personal care and leisure is 14.4 hours compared to the OECD average of 15 hours.
Just one in two hundred people work long hours in the Netherlands. Plus they have great cheese. You've got to ask yourself: What are we doing here?