Parents’ Work-Life Balance: The Best and Worst Countries

Ever wondered what it’s like to finish a full day of work and then rush home to a two year old having a tantrum? Or to have to use annual leave to take your child to the doctor or to see the school play?

Working full time and being a parent can be a considerable challenge, so here at Expert Market we decided to dig deeper into the standards of work-life balance that parents can expect in different countries all over the world.


To find out the best countries for parents’ work-life balance we compared and analysed four unique data points: (1) average annual hours worked by parents, (2) the number of paid annual leave working days permitted by law in each country, (3) total paid leave available to mothers and (4) total paid leave reserved for fathers, for a total of 37 countries.

Key Findings

The research revealed that close Northern European neighbours Finland and Estonia are the top two countries respectively for parents’ work-life balance. Finland secured first place, scoring excellently on paid annual leave allowances and Estonia came in second with the best result for paid leave available to mothers – an impressive 85 weeks at full-rate pay.

Interestingly, Japan and Norway were the only two countries to make the top ten who are not EU member states. Japan ranked first for its substantial rate of paid leave for fathers – an admirable 30.4 weeks, and Norway scored well for its comparatively low average working hours.

Despite being one of the world’s most developed nations, the United States scored the worst of all the OECD countries. Its failure to provide any statutory paid leave to mothers or fathers, paired with the nation’s ‘Fair Labour Standards Act’, which does not require employers to pay workers for any annual leave whatsoever means that, in terms of parents’ work-life balance, the United States remains leagues behind other established western powers.

Adelle Kehoe, of Expert Market comments: “The way we work has completely transformed in recent years and work-life balance has become increasingly important. Our research clearly shows which countries are future-proofing their infrastructures and those that risk being left behind. Raising the next generation to be happy and successful is arguably the most important job of all and parents need time to do that!”

Check out the best and worst countries in the ranking, in the infographics below:

top 10 countries for work life balance
top 10 countries for work life balance
Written by:
Lucy heads up the team on Expert Market, helping to deliver industry-leading expertise on business topics for nearly four years.