Jobs and the Future of Work

Revealed: the countries with the best work-life balance

People are silhouetted against the setting sun on top of the Drachenberg in Berlin, Germany, Germany, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch - RC134C0EEF80

Do you feel stressed by your working hours? Image: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch - RC134C0EEF80

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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If you’re frustrated with your work-life balance, you might consider moving to the Netherlands.

Dutch people don’t tend to work very long hours and spend more time on leisure activities, as well as sleeping and relaxing, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's latest Better Life Index. The index ranks countries by how well citizens are able to juggle their work and personal lives.

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The Netherlands scored 9.5 out of 10, followed by Italy, with a score of 9.4 and Denmark, with nine points. Colombia and Mexico were at the bottom of the 40 countries ranked.

Top 10 countries with the best work-life balance in 2019
Top 10 countries with the best work-life balance in 2019 Image: World Economic Forum

Just 0.4% of employees in the Netherlands work “very long” hours - classified as more than 50 hours per week - among the lowest rates of all the nations considered. By contrast, the OECD average was 11% of people working very long hours.

Stress less

“Long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress,” the OECD says. “Furthermore, the more people work, the less time they have to spend on other activities, such as personal care or leisure.”

The gauge also considered the amount of time each day that full-time employed people spend on leisure and on personal care activities. Italy topped this indicator, with 16.5 hours, followed by France, Spain and Denmark.

In the OECD index, the top 10 spots were occupied only by European countries. By contrast, the US ranked 27th, with 11% of people working very long hours.

The report pointed out that families are often most affected by poor work-life dynamics, advising that governments can help to address the issue by encouraging supportive and flexible working practices.

Human to Machine working hours, 2018 vs 2022 (projected)
Image: Future of Jobs Report 2018

Understanding how work and life interact, and will continue to do so in the future, is a priority for the World Economic Forum. Take a look here at the Forum’s Future of Jobs Report.

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Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkEducation and SkillsEconomic Growth
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