Best Countries for Work Life Balance

Work life balance to many Australian professionals holding down full-time jobs sounds like a kind of nirvana, a promised land where you leave the office on time every day of the week and most importantly, leave your work at the office – rather than taking it home with you.

Work life balance to many Australian professionals holding down full-time jobs sounds like a kind of nirvana, a promised land where you leave the office on time every day of the week and most importantly, leave your work at the office – rather than taking it home with you. Whilst younger workers generally handle longer hours better and have more energy to burn in general, older more established workers, especially managers and those with families to tend to outside their 9-5 can find the “daily grind” and a long working week particularly stressful. Whilst the average working hours for full time employees across the OECD (a group of developed world economies) is 1,776 per annum or an average of 34 hours per week – not including public holidays and annual leave – there’s many enlightened countries which do even better than this. Listed below are five best of the best when it comes to achieving great work life balance: 

  • #1: Netherlands

Average Weekly Working Hours: 29.1
Average Annual Working Hours: 1,379
Standard Leave Entitlement: 20 days
Public Holidays: 7

Taking out the crown when it comes to achieving the world’s best work life balance are the liberal Dutch, who typically work only 1,379 hours of paid employment per annum – significantly less than the OECD average of 1,776. This works out to be just 29.1 hours per week when you include their 7 public holidays and the 20 days annual leave each full time worker is entitled to under law. There’s a good reason the Dutch are also amongst the world’s most happy people

  • #2: Denmark

Average Weekly Working Hours: 32.1
Average Annual Working Hours: 1,410
Standard Leave Entitlement: 25 days
Public Holidays: 11

Following close on the heels of the Dutch in the countries with the best work life balance stakes are the stylish Danish, who are admired (and disparaged) around the world for their generous, comprehensive welfare state and a very refined approach to living a good life. With an average working week of just 32.1 hours, an incredible 25 days paid leave per annum which is on top of 11 public holidays – it’s no wonder the citizens of Denmark have soo much time to enjoy the finer things in life, such as great design!

  • #3: Frances

Average Weekly Working Hours: 32.7
Average Annual Working Hours: 1,472
Standard Leave Entitlement: 25 days
Public Holidays: 11

Keeping up the general theme off super generous European nations with enlightened working practices is France – global leader in fashion, gourmet food and achieving work life balance in fine style! With a total of 36 paid days off work per year (when you count the 25 days or 5 weeks annual leave every worker is entitled to and the 11 days of paid public holiday on top of that) it’s no wonder the French have soo much time to savour all the cultural riches their country offers.

  • #4: Belgium

Average Weekly Working Hours: 35.2
Average Annual Working Hours: 1,541
Standard Leave Entitlement: 20 days
Public Holidays: 10

You guessed it – another European country is in fourth place! This time it’s Belgium. Squeezed snugly between the super generous Netherlands and France, this small nation famed for its historic architecture and important status as capital of the European Union has taken on board many of its neighbours best work practices, including 20 days annual leave per annum as standard, on top of 10 paid public holidays.

  • #5: Spain

Average Weekly Working Hours: 36.5
Average Annual Working Hours: 1,695
Standard Leave Entitlement: 22 days
Public Holidays: 14

Rounding out our top five countries with the best work life balance is Spain, renowned for its great weather, outdoor focused lifestyle and love of long afternoon siestas (as well as very late evenings). Whilst the average Spaniard works a slightly longer week compared to the top 4 countries listed here (36.5 hours to be precise), they still achieve great work life balance thanks to having a standard 22 days of paid annual leave and 14 public holidays throughout the year. Not a bad deal at all!

How Does Australia Compare?

So there you have it, the world’s top five nations with the best are all continental European nations with generous welfare systems and a “work to live” ethos that places the emphasis on employers treating their workers well, in return for workers doing a good job while they’re on the clock. But how does Australia fit into this picture you may be asking? According to the OECD we work an average 35.7 hours per week or 1,669 hours per annum – which is below the OECD average but slightly above the top five countries (except for Spain). We also enjoy a generous 20 days paid annual leave as standard (4 weeks) on top of 10 national public holidays. Not too bad!

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