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10 Countries With The Best Life-Work Balance

Annual study into life-work balance around the world sees major changes as key countries fall down the rankings while others make huge strides in 2024. Revealing the best nations for life-work balance, Global employment expert Remote published its worldwide study into life-work balance — the 2024 Global Life-Work Balance Index.

Everyone should be able to enjoy both personal fulfillment and professional success, no matter where they live,” says Barbara Matthews, Chief People Officer at Remote commenting on the newly released study. “The top countries on our global life-work balance list are leading the way for a brighter future of work by embracing this philosophy and offering the infrastructure to support it.” 

The 2024 ranking continues to assess the quality of life-work balance in the world’s top 60 GDP countries, ranking each country by a ‘life-work balance score out of 100’. 

The key findings are as follows: 

  • New Zealand retains its top spot as the best country for life-work balance for the second year with a score of 80.76.
  • European countries consistently rank high across the study, with seven of the top 10 nations for life-work balance being located on the old continent. 
  • The United Kingdom sees a four-point decline from 2023, dropping from position 8 to outside the top 10 at 15th in 2024 — this is due to a decline across many ranking factors as well as a comparatively low employee safety score. 
  • The United States is one of the lowest-ranking countries for life-work balance, placing 55th out of the 60 countries reviewed in the study.  

Nation’s scores are determined by key ranking factors including minimum wage, sick leave, maternity leave, healthcare availability, public happiness, average working hours, and LGBTQ+ inclusivity as well as public safety (new for 2024).

Would you consider a move to one of the top 10 life-work balance countries? 

1. New Zealand — 80.76

The Antipodean nation of New Zealand holds the top spot in Remote’s index, having also ranked #1 in the 2023 study. New Zealand offers a high minimum wage along with a generous annual leave entitlement of 32 days. It also scores well on the “happiness index” and is considered one of the safest countries to live and work.

2. Ireland — 77.89

Ireland enters the top 10 in 2024 after placing 21st in 2023. The “Emerald Isle” scores consistently well across many of the metrics analyzed. Backed by a universal government-funded healthcare system, Ireland also offers one of the highest minimum wages in the index. This country of just over five million people is also considered one of the safest in the world. 

3= Belgium — 73.45

Also breaking into the top 10 this year, Belgium achieves its high 2024 ranking in a tie with Denmark thanks in part to an update in its sickness policies. The country scores well in several other categories including rate of pay (its minimum wage is among the highest in Europe) and average hours worked per week, which at 35 is below the average of the countries included in the index.

3= Denmark — 73.45

Tied with Belgium for third place, Denmark is considered the world’s second-happiest nation according to the World Happiness Report. Denmark also offers a generous statutory annual leave entitlement (35 days), while it adopts one of the world’s most parent-friendly leave policies. Moreover, the country that brought the concept of “hygge” to the world is considered one of the safest places to live, as well as one of the leaders in promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

5. Canada — 72.75

Canada ranks highly primarily due to having one of the shortest average working weeks (the average Canadian works 32.1 hours, fewer than all but three countries analyzed) while also being considered one of the safest and most LGBTQ+ friendly countries. The Canadians are well ahead of their neighbors in the United States who placed 55th overall. 

6. Germany — 71.84

Germany is a new entry to the top 10 after placing 12th in 2023. Germany’s strong position owes in part to its generous rate of pay, with its minimum wage of $14.68 (USD equivalent) the highest of any European country on the list. The country operates a combined public/private health insurance system, and the number of hours worked per employee is lower than average at 34.24 hours a week.

7. Finland — 71.55

Finnish society has developed an “infrastructure of happiness” — a system encompassing a strong education system, access to high-quality healthcare, a robust economy, and a commitment to human rights, among other factors. The working culture in Finland places a strong emphasis on life-work balance, which is underpinned by a generous amount of statutory annual leave (36 days) and a shorter-than-average working week (34.43 hours) compared to other countries across the study.

8. Australia — 71.35

Australia comfortably offers the highest minimum wage ($17.47 USD equivalent) of any nation in the index, with Australians among the highest-paid employees in the world. They also enjoy one of the shortest working weeks on average, clocking up just over 32 hours per week (the average number of hours worked across the countries Remote analyzed is 39.19).

9. Norway — 70.85

Norway came out on top in Remote’s recent study into parental life-work balance, providing an attractive destination for young families or those planning to have children, in the Global Life-Work Balance Index, when considering benefits for all workers across 60 countries, Norway ranked a respectable ninth. In addition to offering 35 days of statutory annual leave (the average of countries studied is 28), Norwegians rarely work long hours and rank among the happiest nations in the world. The country also has the best record when it comes to championing the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ communities.

10. Spain — 70.60

Whether or not Spanish employees opt for a siesta during the afternoon, they’re still encouraged to take ample time off, with Spain having one of the most generous statutory leave entitlements (36 days a year) in Europe. The country’s parental leave policies also mark it as one of the most parent-friendly.

Analysis of data swings from 2023

As advocates for good working practices, Remote is running the Global Life-Work Balance every year starting in 2023. Compared to last year, some countries made significant strides in improving their ‘life-work balance’ score in 2024, while others faced challenges leading to a decline compared to 2023. 

Key data swings in 2024 compared to 2023: 

  • The United Kingdom drops outside the top 10 to position 15, owing partly to a decline in LGBT+ inclusivity, public happiness, and an increase in average working hours. 
  • Dropping a further two positions compared to 2023, the United States now ranks in position 55 with a ‘life-work balance’ score of 31.82 (a five-point decrease from the previous study). 
  • Ireland experienced one of the largest gains since 2023, climbing up to second from position 21 — indicating considerable progress has been made over the past year.
  • With a score of 73.45, Belgium rose 14th in 2023 to rank third in a tie with Denmark.

The changes in index scores between the 2023 and 2024 studies indicate areas of improvement or decline during the period between publication. As well as tracking new data for 2024, Remote has updated the index to include a country safety score from the Global Peace Index, to consistently strive for a holistic and representative view of life-work balance in each location. 

Countries with significant increases in their overall ‘life-work balance’ score likely saw improvement across multiple indices such as economic growth, social welfare, healthcare, education, and environmental sustainability. 

Meanwhile, countries that experienced a decline in their overall ‘life-work balance’ may have plateaued compared to other countries’ progression, or faced challenges in one or more of the noted factors including economic downturn, political instability, social unrest, and environmental degradation. 

Concluding Remote’s 2024 Global Life-Work Balance Index, Chief People Officer Barbara Matthews says: At Remote we are driven to promote the value and importance of a strong work-life balance and sustainable workplace culture. This inspired our Global Life-Work Balance campaign. We chose to conduct an index study to compare statutory benefits and core metrics across the globe, providing an equal comparison that evaluates each country against the same criteria. 

This work-life balance comparison reflects the foundations upon which each organization can then build its own work-life balance policies and workplace culture. We appreciate that work-life balance is highly nuanced and will vary per person and industry – our index study is here as a comparative exercise to showcase which countries provide the best foundation for organizations to foster a strong work-life balance.

Life-work balance remains an essential point of discussion in 2024 as global hiring continues to be a growing factor in many workplaces. Competition is increasing to attract top talent from all over the world and workplaces have to understand the importance of a strong benefits package. People are seeking environments that directly address concerns over burnout and stress while promoting a healthy approach to work that allows them to bring their best every day. There’s still work to be done across the globe to strike a perfect balance between our personal and professional selves.