Aotearoa New Zealand has beat out 59 other countries to be crowned the best in the world for work-life balance, a concept that is seeing greater scrutiny post-pandemic with the introduction of hybrid work models and four-day weeks.
In a new study from the international employment and hiring company Remote, New Zealand ranked first in the top 10 nations for work-life, or life-work, balance: a term describing a healthy relationship between a career and personal life.
The global index study assessed the quality of life-work balance in the world's top 60 GDP countries, ranking each nation out of 100. The overall score was determined by factors including minimum wage, sick leave, maternity leave, healthcare availability, public happiness, average working hours, and LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
The findings follow statistics showing more than three-quarters of employees have experienced burnout in their current roles.
"Everyone should be able to enjoy both personal fulfilment and professional success, no matter where they live," said Christopher McNamara, chief revenue officer at Remote.
"New Zealand being the first on our global life-work balance list showcases New Zealanders as role models in leading the way for a brighter future of work by embracing this philosophy and offering the infrastructure to support it."
The study found that workers in New Zealand and Australia are among the most generously paid, with our trans-Tasman neighbours ranking fourth.
Overall, Europe was found to be leading the way in work-life balance, with European nations making up six of the top 10 countries in the study.
The United States ranked a poor 53rd in the index, owing to a lack of statutory annual leave or sick pay, and the absence of a universal healthcare system.
"When conducting the study, it was fascinating to observe different working cultures across the globe and how each approached the concept of life-work balance. Oceania indicates a modern and strong work culture with emphasis on support and inclusivity," McNamara added.
"We champion companies and organisations that prioritise their employees by providing them with a strong foundation for life-work balance. True life-work balance extends beyond work-from-home mandates - it actively encourages employers to take time off away from the pressures of work, advocating for a balanced life to help us thrive in all areas.
"Burnout has been a hot topic of conversation in the news and among workplace cultures. While the world of work has come a long way since embracing remote-first attitudes and flexibility, there's still work to be done across the globe to strike a perfect balance between our personal and professional selves."
The Top 10 Countries for Work-Life Balance
New Zealand - 79.35/100
The index study revealed New Zealand to be the country with the best life-work balance. New Zealand scored highly across several metrics, offering a generous statutory annual leave allowance (32 days), a high rate of sick pay (80 percent), and a Government-funded universal health care system.
Spain - 75.55/100
While the idea of the Spanish siesta has become something of an international stereotype, the European nation still builds a culture that encourages balance, Remote found. Scoring consistently well across the board, the country is particularly generous when it comes to statutory annual leave (36 days). It also has one of the shortest working weeks on average.
France - 75.34/100
One of the largest European countries by population (around 65 million) and with one of the highest GDPs in the world, businesses in France have a healthy attitude to life-work balance, with workers enjoying ample free time, a generous minimum wage, and 36 days of statutory annual leave per year, Remote found.
Australia - 73.71/100
Known for its laid-back culture and favourable year-round climate (with many states enjoying more than 3000 hours of sunshine a year), Australia ranks high in the life-work balance index. The country offers the highest minimum annual wage per hour of any nation, and sickness leave is paid at 100 percent of your salary.
Denmark - 73.67/100
Considered one of the happiest nations (ranking second in the "Happiness Index" metric behind Finland), Denmark offers its workers a generous 36 days' annual leave, 100 percent sick pay, and universal healthcare support. Along with Norway, it's also considered to be Europe's most LGBTQ+-friendly country.
Norway - 73.05/100
Norway is a nation that understands the value of life-work balance, Remote found. Norwegian nationals are considered among the happiest people in Europe. Its workers receive 35 days of statutory annual leave and 100 percent sick pay. Long working weeks are rare and the country boasts a renowned government-funded healthcare system - health expenditure per head is higher in Norway than in most other countries.
Netherlands - 69.14/100
Viewed as having a modern, independent culture, the Netherlands is the second-happiest country in our top 10, and one the most supportive of LGBTQ+ rights. Though the Dutch aren't afforded a government-backed healthcare package, and the annual leave rate is about average, there's a generous rate of maternity pay for parents.
United Kingdom - 69.07/100
With a high-income economy and a very high human development index rating, the United Kingdom boasts the globe's sixth-largest economy based on GDP. The country also has a healthy attitude to life-work balance, with an internationally renowned healthcare system, a generous minimum wage, and one of the highest global rates of statutory maternity leave.
Canada - 67.91/100
Canada offers a universal healthcare package and is seen as the most LGBTQ+-friendly country in which to live and work. Remote ranked Canada as the number one international destination for working professionals due to its high quality of life, safety, and a multitude of leisure opportunities.
Brazil - 67.73/100
Brazil is the only South American country to feature in Remote's top 10. Its high standing owes largely to its generous rate of sick and maternity pay, as well as its government-funded universal healthcare system.
The world's top 60 GDP countries were selected as a global sample and to reduce data blanks. In the interest of sensitivity, Ukraine and Russia were removed due to the conflict at this time.
The study came to its conclusions by reviewing the following key indicators:
- Statutory annual leave (total days of paid leave, including public holidays)*
- Minimum statutory sick pay (percent or wage of flat amount)
- Statutory maternity leave (number of weeks paid)*
- Statutory maternity leave payment rate (percent of wage)*
- Minimum wage (USD per hour)* - dividing annual minimum wage (US$) rate by 52 weeks and then by the length of the standard hour workweek
- Healthcare status
- Happiness index (The Global Economy) score (ranked on a scale of 1-10)
- Average hours worked per week
- LGBTQ+ Inclusivity (Equaldex, 0-100, 100 being highest to reflect the Legal Index scores the legal rights and freedoms LGBTQ+ people have while the Public Opinion Index scores how the general public feels in each region).
(*) When a range was offered, the minimum amount was listed.
The data was collected and analysed in March 2023.