Which country has the best work life balance? 

How many hours a week do most people work? Who stays the longest with their employer? The French, Italians, Americans,Turkish? Reportlinker collected several country data to highlight the different working patterns in Europe and the US.

Western Europeans work fewer hours per week than their counterparts in North America, Eastern Europe and Asia due to regulations designed to “protect” them and restrict how much employers are permitted to make them work.

For instance, in France employers have not been permitted to force employees (via threats of being fired) to put in more than 35 hours of work time per week since 2002. “La loi travail” (“the labour law”) in 2016, gave French employers the possibility of getting more than 35 hours per week out of some employees if a collective agreement can be struck. Although designed to help create greater economic prosperity and more higher-paying jobs, especially for graduating university students, before becoming law the bill was met by bitter protests and resentment.

More than half of French workers appear to feel that working fewer hours (35 to 39) per week and not being forced to work more than that is loaded with tremendous benefits and appeal. A mere 14% of French workers choose to work 40 to 44 hours. A similar attitude prevails in Finland, with 46.5% of workers putting in 35 to 39 hours per week while just 26% work 40 to 44 hours (through 2016)The other Scandinavian countries are even more enamored of shorter work weeks. Through 2016, almost 63% of employees in Norway work 35 to 39 hours per week, with just 6% working 40 to 44 hours. Eight percent even work only 10 to 19 hours per week. In Denmark (through 2016), 58% of employees worked 35 to 39 hours per week, with a paltry 6% working 40 to 44 hours.

But in other parts of Europe, the situation and prevailing attitude are different. In 2016, 56.7% of Turkey’s employees worked 40- 49 hours per week. Another 15% worked 50-59 hours. And in Romania, about 95% of employees work 40-49 hours per week.Curiously enough, on a global scale, the nation with longest-working employees is none other than Mexico (approximately 43 hours worked per week). United States employees fall right in the middle of the global rankings (about 34 hours worked per week), while Germans work the least (about 26 hours).

The most loyal employees in Europe are the Italians, who may spend 12 or more years working for the same employer. Cyprians change jobs the most of Europeans, about every nine years. The French are loyal, too, averaging close to 11-and-a-half years with the same employer (second-highest level behind the Italians). However, French employee “loyalty” might have more to do with the French labor laws that make trying to fire an employee so time-consuming and expensive for employers.The number of European managers who work on weekends has also increased to almost 20% since the first years of 2000.This matter of loyalty is an important one that may have a lot of impact on how many hours per week employees work. For instance, one major reason why American workers today seem to work slightly less than the French is simply because so many American workers, especially those under age 35 (currently called “Millennials”), feel that it’s too difficult to find a good-paying and desirable full-time job. In fact, only 40% of Millennials told ReportLinker that they even “somewhat agree” that they feel strong loyalty to their current employer.

Young employees today have greater expectations than previous generations of workers. Sitting at the top of their lists are perks that include: a telecommuting option; parental leave options, free food and beverages provided at the office, employer-funded gym membership and “nap pods” or rest areas in the office.Because it can be so difficult to find a full-time job with an employer who lives up to all expectations or demands for young American workers, many more of them are turning, at least part-time, to the “gig economy” for personal fulfillment or additional money. Indeed, 65% of employees responding to a ReportLinker survey think freelancers are happier than other professionals and 26% said that they expect to become a freelancer at some point in their career. Among those who responded that they wanted to become freelancers or already were, the top four most important perks mentioned are: being their own boss, followed by a better work/life balance, flexible working hours, and a need for freedom.And this desire for more personal control and freedom corresponds with the perceived benefits of working less than 40 hours per week among Western Europeans, many of who appear happy to trade in some money in exchange for more family or personal time and less stress. These countries’ “social safety nets” are seen by many as helping to make up for the money not earned, too. In the end, today’s workers want more flexibility, and more freedom from “the boss”.