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June 7 2011

Work-Life Balance Is What We Say It Is

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

The OECD – that unaccountable, Paris-based bureaucracy that schemes to raise global taxes – has come out with a “Better Life Index” that ranks countries’ work-life balance. 

According to Time Magazine, “Based on data from 34 countries, the OECD chose three indicators to measure work life balance. These include the amount of time devoted to personal activities, the employment rate of women with children age 6 to 14 and the number of employees working over 50 hours a week.” 

The article throws in anecdotes about a few countries that show how good the Europeans have it - like “the Netherlands and Sweden both only have 0.001% of their respective populations regularly working over 50 hours a week” and “If you're looking for the most personal time, relocating to Belgium might be a good idea. Belgians have an average of 16.61 hours a day of time off, compared to the combined OECD average of 15.46 hours.”

Those glowing pictures of happy workers are balanced against the harsh conditions in the United States – “But when it comes to hours spent at work, the figures show Americans are putting in 1768 hours a year. That's well over the OECD average by almost 20 hours.” Wow, I didn’t know I lived in a country that practically enslaves it citizens! The horror! 20 whole hours more than average! 

For starters: let’s just address the shoddy math. Average hours worked, per average employee. Come on, we’re not even comparing apples to apples. A lawyer here to a lawyer in the UK – maybe. But broad labor market generalizations across countries? That’s just lazy. 

Another point worth making: my colleague Carrie has discussed over and over again that it’s important to bear in mind that women can choose to work these hours – or not. I enjoy working long hours - I’m getting my career off the ground and don’t have any children, and I receive a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction from that. Other women prefer to spend time with their families, while still others would prefer to spend their days “devoted to leisure and personal care” (that sounds like going to the salon! Is that seriously a factor in their calculations?!?) Mon dieu, it was only in 2008 that the French law forbidding employees from working more than 35 hours a week was scrapped – but only barely! 

It should come as no surprise, then, that Time notes (unironically) how America’s working moms benefit from a 73% employment rate – 7% above the OECD average. Must just be a coincidence…!

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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