Posted: Jul 21, 2016
Vibrant, enjoyable and attractive properties: 20 best work-life balance countries
Where are the best places to live for a perfect work-life balance? Countries with affordable housing, good levels of income and enjoyable work. The community should be vibrant, allow for continuing education and offer good healthcare. Here are 20 places, according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), who monitor the quality of life in different nations. Different countries offer different approaches. Policies and attitudes can vary on the hours of employment and family time, but here is a shortlist stretching from Spain to Sweden.
Geneva is a magnet for bankers, fashionistas and diplomats. The pleasures of the city are complemented by Lake Geneva. Further afield, who could resist the Alps? It is an attractive place to work with a cosmopolitan feel, while bordering France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein and Germany. According to the OECD, “When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Swiss people gave it a 7.6 grade.”
Long working hours are a feature of life in Mexico, with 29% working more than 50 hours a week. Mothers get 12 weeks on full pay, while fathers get one week. But the lifestyle more than makes up for it. You can enjoy everything from beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets to a laid-back lifestyle. A two-bedroom apartment with access to a swimming pool would set you back around £150,000. A small price to pay for a slice of paradise.
America lags behind Europe when it comes to paid holidays and there’s no legislation to provide paid maternity leave. People here have the greatest household disposable income. Those seeking a better balance in their lives are choosing Brooklyn, Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Denver and Atlanta for their thriving social scenes.
The Milanese spend 12% fewer hours in the office than the average worker across the world. City centre property in the northern city is bucking the general trend in Italy and continues to rise in price. Italians across the country are happier and live longer than people in other countries. They put life satisfaction ahead of income in their list of priorities.!
16. Australia & New Zealand
The antipodeans are average in work/life balance surveys, with 13% working long hours. Their New Zealand neighbours come in at 14%. Living costs are high, but wages are good and, of course, there is plenty of sunshine. Property price growth in Australia is predicted to ease in Sydney and Melbourne due to a number of new-builds on the market. New Zealand is seeing high demand and a shortage of property, leading to price increases.
Less than 0.04% of the population of Finland work more than 50 hours a week. They also have 40 days of paid holidays. It is a beautiful country with gorgeous country and classical architecture in Helsinki.
Canada is known for the great outdoors with beautiful lakes, top ski resorts and the huge swathes of natural wilderness. Meanwhile, for the city life, Vancouver has friendly people, great shops and modern feel. The country scores highly in rankings, too. According to the OECD: “When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Canadians gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.”
This Baltic state also gives its citizens 41 days of paid holidays a year, of which 13 are public holidays. Workers tend to put in 33 hours a week - that’s seven hours a day. The property market is recovering, according to the Bank of Lithuania, without risk of a bubble.
As the Rio Olympics loom large, the spotlight is on Brazil. It has 5,000 miles of sandy beaches and a tropical climate. The population enjoys 41 days of paid leave – of these, 11 are federal holidays. The cost of living is relatively high, but people are warm, welcoming and, at Carnival, very happy.
Mothers here get a generous 410 days of maternity leave at 90% salary. Another year at a minimum salary is also on offer – or the father or grandparents can take it instead. Many Brits have moved here since the country joined the EU. There’s a TV sitcom called The English Neighbour, where Leslie Grantham stars and is so enthusiastic about the place that he’s considering a move there himself.
Luxembourgers spend an average of 1,703 hours a year in the office and have 31 days’ holiday a year. The cost of living is high here, with higher rents than in the UK and higher taxes. But the country ranks above the UK on the happiness index, and for life satisfaction, they come in at fourth place in the EU.
Employers tend to offer an excellent work/life balance and long lunches are the norm. Global tech companies are piling into Dublin and attracting a diverse workforce of young and enthusiastic people. Property prices are high and rising, but if you don’t mind commuting, there are some beautiful places around where you can bag a bargain.
The Russians put in 31.66 hours of work a week, around 1,646 hours a year. They have 31 holiday days. Expats are paid well and the locals are friendly. If you work in Moscow, it is now possible to buy an apartment, or even a dacha (country cabin), but research the market first and take advice from an agent, a broker or a reliable lawyer. Property prices have been falling here and interest rates and inflation are high.
The Germans work 27.8 hours a week and have 29 paid holiday days a year. Essen is the happiest city in Germany. Over half of its inhabitants said they were satisfied with their lives.
Most Germans still prefer to rent rather than buy. Rents are reasonable, and there are no government incentives to buy. When asked, 93% of Germans reported they were happy with their housing situation.
The Swedes go for parental leave in a big way. Workers are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of parental leave (with 60 days for dad) and these can be taken over the first eight years of a child’s life. Workers enjoy 36 days of paid holidays a year, too. Who could be surprised that their life expectancy is two years more than the average at 82? Prices of apartments have doubled in the past 10 years, but the banks are now saying they’ve peaked and may even fall.
Norwegian women are able to take 47 weeks’ maternity leave on a full salary, or 57 weeks at 80% of their pay. New fathers can take 12 weeks. Everybody gets 35 days’ paid holidays and most people work to live, rather than live to work. House prices rose by 1.7% in the first quarter of this year.
The Belgians work 33.02 hours a week. They only have 18 paid days’ holiday a year yet they work 1,574 hours a year, less than the 1,765 average. Antwerp is the happiest city, but the rest of the country is pretty satisfied with its lot, with 81% of people saying they experience joy every day. The property market is stable and prices are rising slowly.
In Amsterdam, 52% report that they are very satisfied with the life they lead. On average, they work 27.6 hours a week. They have 28 days of paid holidays and 16 weeks of maternity leave on full pay. They are tolerant and friendly and most speak English. Low mortgage rates and high demand are pushing up house prices.
Across Spain, the average worker has 16.1 hours of leisure time per day, against an average of 15. People living in Madrid tend to work 33.28 hours a week – with the traditional siesta taking a chunk out of each day. And who can blame them in the hot, heady days of summer? Spain is considered a safe and friendly country to live in with good transport and healthcare. Its economy is recovering and buyers are returning to the property market.
The Danes top all the tables when it comes to a great work/life balance. They tend to avoid working long hours and the government promotes family-friendly policies. Women are entitled to 52 weeks of paid maternity leave. The average working week is 32.64 hours – 11.4% fewer than the global average. Low interest rates are fuelling house prices here.