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Top 10 Countries with a Great Work-Life Balance

In addition to all-time favorites like the Scandinavian countries, the list holds some surprises such as Bahrain, the Czech Republic, and Oman.

In most of the countries with a great work-life balance, expats also express above-average satisfaction with their life abroad — for example those in New Zealand (89%), Costa Rica (88%), and the Czech Republic (87%). Interestingly, a high satisfaction with work-life balance doesn’t necessarily mean that expats don’t work a lot, according to the latest Expat Insider survey. In fact, a high share of expats in the featured countries work full time, and their weekly working hours aren’t always a lot shorter than the global average.

1. Denmark

With just 39.7 hours per week (vs. 44.3 h globally), expats working full time in Denmark have the shortest working week out of the top 10 countries with a great work-life balance. Maybe it’s that benefit which attracts highly educated expats: close to half the respondents in Denmark (47%) have a master’s degree or similar. Additionally, twelve percent hold a PhD (vs. 6% globally), which is — together with Sweden — the highest share out of the featured top 10. “I like the work-life balance, which I do not get anywhere else”, an expat from Indonesia states, while one from Portugal points out the “balance between work and private life” as a positive aspect of life in Denmark. In fact, more than three-quarters of expats working in Denmark rate their work-life balance positively (76%), compared to three in five globally (60%). Despite that, their overall job satisfaction (62%) is just below the global average (64%).

2. Bahrain

Close to half the expats in Bahrain (46%) cite work-related reasons for moving there: more than one quarter found a job there on their own (26%), which is more than twice the global average (12%). Others were recruited by a local company (12%), sent by their employer (6%), or wanted to start their own business abroad (1%). And it seems like Bahrain is a good place to move to for work, as an expat from the Philippines explains: “You can still find time to relax after a day of work.” In fact, 69 percent of expats are satisfied with their work-life balance, and another 72 percent are happy with their working hours, even though the average working week is just slightly below the global average (42.9 h vs. 44.3 h). Moreover, seven in ten (70%) say they make more money than they would in a similar job back home; only in Norway is the share of expats stating the same even higher (72%). Maybe that is one of the reasons why close to three-quarters (73%) are generally satisfied with their job in Bahrain — nearly two in five (36%) even give it the best possible rating, more than twice the global average (17%).

3. Norway

Expats in Norway are highly satisfied with their work-life balance (72%) and their working hours (77%). In fact, they only spend an average of 42.9 hours per week at work, which is 1.4 hours less than expats in full-time jobs worldwide (44.3 h). “Work-life balance is very important here and jobs are generally very family-friendly”, says a British expat. In addition to that, twelve percent of expats in Norway have a gross yearly household income of more than 150,000 USD — among the featured top 10 countries only the share of those in New Zealand is higher (14%). Therefore, it is not very surprising that 72 percent of expats believe that they make more in Norway than they would in a similar job back home. This isn’t only far above the global average (51%), but also the highest share out of the top 10 countries with a great work-life balance. However, it seems like it’s still not enough: with 71 percent of expats rating the cost of living in Norway negatively (vs. 35% globally), it’s clear to see why 21 percent state that their disposable household income doesn’t cover everything they need in daily life.

4. The Czech Republic

Expats in the Czech Republic work the longest hours out of the top 10 featured countries (44.9 h), which is even slightly above the global average (44.3 h). Despite that, they’re still generally satisfied with their working hours (76% vs. 61% globally) as well as their work-life balance (73% vs. 60% globally). “My working conditions are excellent here. My employer offers me a lot of benefits, including more vacation days and good healthcare”, says an expat from Australia. Moreover, it seems like they couldn’t be more satisfied with their career prospects (65% vs. 53% globally) and their job security (74% vs. 57% globally) — both shares are the highest among the top 10 countries with a great work-life balance. “I like everything that is connected with my job”, an expat from Russia sums up, and three-quarters of expats (75%) agree by rating their overall job satisfaction positively.

5. New Zealand

With most expats moving to New Zealand for a better quality of life (26%) and only six percent citing work-related reasons, it’s clear that work isn’t their priority there: only 73 percent of expats in the country work full time, which is the smallest share among the top 10 destinations and ten percentage points less than the global average (83%). Moreover, those who do work full-time spend exactly two hours less in the office than the global average (42.3 h vs. 44.3 h). Maybe that’s one of the reasons why exactly three-quarters of expats working in New Zealand are generally satisfied with both their work-life balance and their working hours. A British expat definitely appreciates the “generally laid-back and friendly lifestyle”. Despite expats in New Zealand not being overworked, the share with a gross yearly household income of more than 150,000 USD per year is still the highest out of the top 10 featured countries. This might contribute to the fact that 89 percent are generally satisfied with their life abroad, which makes them the happiest expats worldwide.

6. Sweden

Expats in Sweden seem to enjoy a good working life as they report above-average satisfaction with several factors: close to seven in ten (69%) are happy with their work-life balance, and more than three-quarters (77%) are satisfied with their working hours. Like in New Zealand, they only work 42.3 hours per week in a full-time position, compared to an average of 44.3 hours globally. Moreover, 56 percent are happy with their career prospects, compared to 53 percent globally, and an even higher share is happy with their job security (65% vs. 57% globally). “There are lots of job opportunities and a good work-life balance”, states an expat from Germany. Interestingly, however, only three in five (60%) are satisfied with their job overall, which is slightly below the global average (64%).

7. Costa Rica

Expats working in Costa Rica spend 44.3 hours per week at their jobs, which is exactly the same time as the average expat worldwide. However, while globally only 60 percent are satisfied with their work-life balance, 68 percent of expats in Costa Rica are happy with this factor. Unfortunately, it seems like the long hours don’t pay off: only 44 percent of expats in Costa Rica find that their disposable household income is more than what they need to cover all daily expenses (vs. 48% globally). “It is very expensive to live here, and you’re not paid well”, says an expat from the USA. More than two in five expats in Costa Rica (42%) believe that their current income is lower than what they would make in a similar job back home, compared to only 29 percent of expats thinking this worldwide.

8. The Netherlands

Before moving abroad, three in five expats (60%) saw the Netherlands’ economy and labor market as a potential benefit, compared to 45 percent globally. Maybe it’s the great state of the economy that allows expats to work 2.3 hours less per week than the global average for full-time position (42 h vs. 44.3 h). “Life is hassle-free and very relaxed,” an expat from Canada thinks, while a French expat appreciates the “great working conditions”. In fact, around three-quarters are happy with their work-life balance (75%) and their working hours (76%) in the Netherlands. Maybe that’s one factor attracting highly educated expats: more than half the expats in the Netherlands hold a master’s degree or similar (51%), which isn’t only 11 percentage points more than the global average, but also the highest share among the destinations on this list. Also, the main sectors or industries are somewhat different from the global average: 17 percent work in IT (9% globally), followed by finance (12% vs. 8%), and manufacturing & engineering (11% vs. 8%).

9. Oman

Like in Bahrain, most expats (43%) moved to Oman for work-related reasons: one quarter (25%) found a job on their own, eleven percent were recruited by a local company, five percent were sent abroad by their employer, and two percent planned to start their own business abroad. In fact, work does seem to play an important role in expat life in Oman, as nearly everyone (96%) works full time — the highest share among the top 10 countries with a great work-life balance. With an average of 43.5 hours, the typical working week is only slightly below the global average of 44.3 hours, but the respondents don’t seem to have an issue with that. More than two-thirds (67%) are satisfied with their work-life balance, and seven in ten (70%) are happy with their working hours, which is both above the global average (60% and 61%). A Moldovan living in Oman likes the “easy-paced lifestyle and that everyone can make their own schedule. Nobody is bound by the busy life.” However, only three in five (60%) are generally satisfied with their job, which might be due to low career prospects and lack of job security. Only 39 percent state to be happy with the former (vs. 53% globally) and 47 percent with the latter factor (vs. 57% globally).

10. Malta

Similar to New Zealand, the most frequently cited reason for moving to Malta is a better quality of life (27%), while only 15 percent mention work-related reasons. Moreover, around three-quarters of expats in Malta work full time (77%), the second-smallest share out of the ten countries featured here, after New Zealand. However, in contrast to New Zealand, those who do work full-time spend 43.9 hours per week at work, which is only slightly below the global average (44.3 h). Nonetheless, expats in Malta report above-average happiness with their working hours (67%) and work-life balance (72%). A Croatian expat likes the “opportunity to work and earn well”, which seems to be the case for the majority of those living in Malta. More than half (52%) state that their disposable household income is more than enough to cover everything they need for daily life, which is slightly above the global average (48%). With another 66 percent rating their job security positively (vs. 57% globally), it might not come as a surprise that three-quarters of expats in Malta (75%) are overall satisfied with their job — this is the highest share out of the featured countries, together with the Czech Republic and New Zealand. Only the career prospects seem to spoil the mood as only 43 percent rate this factor positively, compared to 53 percent globally.



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