Which European country offers the best work-life balance?

Which European country offers the best work-life balance?
Copyright PIXABAY
By Sallyann Nicholls
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Where are you more likely to work 50-hour weeks, and in which countries will you have more time to relax and have fun? New rankings reveal which European countries are best — and worst — for work and play.


Outside of work, much of the adult world grapples with balancing the time needed to pay bills, check emails and nurture relationships. But how much time do individuals get to themselves to look out for their own needs — and even just have fun?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has examined people’s work-life balance across 38 countries, and the results vary wildly.

The data, released this month, compares a population’s average working hours versus their time left for leisure and personal care.

Pursuits including socialising, hobbies, gaming, computer and television use are considered leisure activities, while personal care concerns the fulfillment of basic needs such as eating and sleeping.

Long working hours apply to people who devote fifty hours or more per week to their job.

According to the OECD, 13% of employees work very long hours and full-time workers have an average of 15 hours spare for personal time among the countries studied.

These include the 35 OECD member states as well as Russia, Brazil and South Africa.

Here is how Europe compares:

Dutch and Danes come out on top

The Netherlands outdoes the rest of the continent for work-life balance. Only a tiny proportion of the working population (0.5%) works 50 hours or more per week, and employees there can expect to spend 15.9 hours per day, on average, on personal time.

And despite welcoming far more more women (69.9%) than average (57.5%) into the workforce, the Dutch also enjoy comparatively low levels of job insecurity and strain, according to the OECD.

In Denmark, families are offered extensive financial and practical support so parents can balance their work and home lives more easily. It is partly why they rank second on the list.

In 1998, the government also introduced a subsidised FlexJob scheme to allow more flexibility for workers with limited physical capacity and to help them find work. Danes with flexjobs can change or fix their hours, apply to be relieved of weekend and extra holiday work, and request lighter duty. Along with their relatively short 37-hour standard working weeks, Danish workers do rather well compared to their European neighbours — especially Turkey.

Turkey struggles with work-life balance

With a dramatic score of '0', the Eurasian country ranks lowest for work-life balance. Just over a third (33.8%) of employees work long hours per week and have just 12.6 hours spare per day, on average, for eating, sleeping and general enjoyment.

But workers in Turkey are likely to be fiercely committed to their jobs due to a lack of employment opportunities. According to the OECD, the employment rate there is the lowest among member states, while job strain and labour market insecurity are among the highest.

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