10 countries with the best work-life balance in Europe
Europe is famous for many things. From the cultural diversity to the great food to the historical sights to the people who wear beautiful clothes, it is a continent that holds a lot of appeal for students and professionals all over the world. But did you know that the European Union is also a fierce protector of the famous work-life balance? This is correct. Not only is it a continent where you can reasonably visit the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum in one day (it’s tight, but you can!), but European countries also have great business conditions. It is, in fact, completely enshrined in EU law through the Work-Life Balance Directive and the European pillar of social rights. We dug deep into the OECD’s Better Lives Index to understand just which EU member states have the best work-life balance. Here are the top 10. Netherlands The Netherlands achieved a high score of 9.5/10 for work-life balance. Their average work week is just 29.3 hours, making it one of the shortest work weeks in the world. Local government and employers place a lot of emphasis on employees’ ability to strike a healthy balance between getting enough work done, respecting and enjoying their personal obligations, raising children, looking after their own health and well-being, and more. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 0.5% of working people in the Netherlands leave their workplace later than they are supposed to. Italy Italy comes in second with an impressive 9.4 on the Better Life Index. The employment rate across the country is very high, with 67% of men and 49% of women working in full-time paid jobs. Since family time is such an important aspect of Italian culture, the country has limited the number of hours you can be required to work to 40 hours. However, in most companies, employees are likely to work less than 36 hours. Only 4% of employees work long hours. They also have a whopping 12 national holidays and offer employees 4 weeks of paid vacation, on average. Denmark 74% of people aged 15-64 in Denmark are currently gainfully employed. Denmark has a 37-hour work week to take into account working parents. In fact, many employees leave the office around 4pm to pick up their kids from school and spend the afternoon with them. Businesses are largely closed throughout the summer, and anyone who works for a Danish company (or is self-employed in Denmark) is encouraged to take off every day of their 5-week vacation allowance. Being present is not a factor that afflicts Danish workers – in fact, working overtime or not taking all the days off is very frowned upon! Spain Spain is so much more than a land of bullfighting and sangria! It is one of the most important work-life balance locations in Europe. Flexible working arrangements have long been the norm in Spain, with benefits such as summer Fridays all year round in many companies, fewer hours in the office in the hotter months, 10 national holidays a year, and an extra average of 3-5 days for local holidays. regional. The workweek is usually about a 40-hour workweek, although the government recently approved a trial period of four working days per week. Companies can participate in this trial period and offer a shorter work week at their sole discretion. Spain is also set to introduce a week’s paid leave for carers of family members. While salaries are lower than in other European countries, the cost of living is also significantly lower. France Oooh-la-la! Isn’t everyone’s dream to live in Paris at some point in their lives? Well, the good news is that if you are lucky enough to get a job there, you can actually enjoy your free time! With very high employment rates – 69% of men and 62% of women aged 15 to 64 are salaried, full-time employees – France is considering reducing working hours to a 32-hour work week from the current 39. The law protects French employees from working more than 10 hours per day or working more than 4.5 hours continuously throughout the day. All said and done – you’ll have time for a café latte and a croissant! A bit of a wild card on the list, Lithuania is ranked sixth on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Lives Index. In fact, more than 70% of people between the ages of 15 and 64 have jobs, with men and women somewhat equal at 70% as well. The workweek lasts five days, with 28 days off per year, and a legal framework has been put in place to protect employees from overtime. Working longer than the average working hours needs to be justified by following the very strict Lithuanian Labor Code. Most of the staff work around 8 hours a day, making it the perfect place to relocate for those seeking more of a family life and have childcare responsibilities on their mind. Norway ranks high on the list for many reasons, one of which is the fact that the country’s average adjusted net income for a household is much higher than the OECD average. The normal range of working hours is 40 hours per week, although on average the Norwegian tends to work around 37.5 hours per week. With 5 weeks of paid leave, working in Norway (be it full time or part time) can give you all the flexibility you need to work there and come home to visit your family. Norway is also generous in terms of family leave, offering more than 11 months of parental leave for mothers, and up to 10 weeks for fathers. Furthermore, Norway has a very high level of sick pay, covering 100% of a worker’s wages for up to a year. Belgium Few countries enjoy as much free time as Belgium. On average, Belgians enjoy 8.6 hours of leisure time per day, while they only need to work about 7 hours per day! You don’t have to worry about burnout in this job market – Belgian employers place great importance on their employees having enough time off to enjoy their personal lives. There is no “live to work” concept here, it is all about “work to live!”. The country is also home to some of Europe’s leading institutions, including the European Commission, European Parliament, and Council of the European Union. Germany As you might imagine, Germany has very clear regulations and guidelines on working hours and conditions in its national law. The longest hours you can work in a week are capped at 48 hours, with a strict ban on working on Sundays and national holidays. Average annual income is slightly higher than the OECD average, and flexible working hours were fairly common in Germany even before the coronavirus pandemic hit last year. Overtime is often compensated in some way, such as extra time off. Sweden surprise, surprise! There is another Nordic country on the list. Employment rates are very high in Sweden, with 77% of people between the ages of 15 and 64 finding themselves in paid jobs. Working hours cannot exceed 40 hours per week – this is stipulated in Swedish law. Overtime is limited to 200 hours per year, and employees can choose whether to be compensated with cash or with additional time off. Moreover, the country boasts of 480 days of parental leave which can be evenly distributed between maternity leave and paternity leave. Is it surprising, then, to learn that Sweden ranks first in terms of gender equality and female employment rates on the continent? A few other contenders. Other countries that made it into the top 20 European countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development with the best work-life balance include Switzerland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Finland, Ireland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Greece. The United Kingdom, for example, ranked lower on the list than expected due to its relatively low annual income per capita compared to expected working hours and cost of living. Countries outside Europe that ranked relatively high on the list included Canada, Brazil, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Chile. Did you find this article helpful? If you do, please follow us on our social media accounts on LinkedIn or Instagram. Please share the article with your friends or colleagues!