This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 26, 2014.
To many tired American workers, this won’t come as a surprise. The United States has a pretty abysmal ranking on the list of developed countries for creating a balance between work and life away from work.
Americans work longer hours, have fewer vacation days and leisure hours, and spend as much or more time cooking, cleaning and caring for family as their international counterparts.
This is according to the 2013 Better Life Index, compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a nongovernmental organization in France that tracks economic and social data from its economically developed member countries.
Compared with 36 other nations, the United States is the only country that does not have a national paid leave policy for mothers and fathers after a baby is born. That factor played a big role in the county’s low work-life balance rating, the index authors said.
Maternity leave in the U.S. is typically unpaid and generally 12 weeks long, which is shorter than average for Index countries, although some states, including California, have laws that provide for partial wages and longer time away from work when a baby is born. In Denmark, the country with the top work-life balance rating, both moms and dads can take up to a year off after a baby is born, and in some circumstances, the entire leave is paid.
The good news is poor work-life balance in the United States doesn’t seem to translate into poor quality of life overall. Americans were in the top half of the pack in the “life satisfaction” ranking, and the U.S. was No. 1 in after-tax household income.
Here are the numbers:
The United States’ ranking, out of 36, on the index list of countries with the best work-life balance. Denmark was No. 1, and Canada, New Zealand, Brazil and most European countries all outrank the U.S.
The percentage of Americans who reported working more than 50 hours per week, which the index deems “very long hours.” Nine percent of people in all Index countries said they worked very long hours, but in Denmark, the country with the best work-life balance rating, only 2 percent of workers put in this many hours on the job.
The amount of time, on average, that American women spend per day on “domestic work,” including cooking, cleaning and caring for family members. American men spend 2.5 hours per day, 23 minutes more than the overall average for men in the developed countries surveyed.
The United States’ ranking, out of 36, on the index list of countries whose people have the highest “general satisfaction with life.” Americans, on average, said they would rate their overall satisfaction as 7, on a scale of 0 to 10. The index average was 6.6.