What Is The Best Country In The World To Work?

It's no secret that the U.S. has pretty lousy work-life policies. But is the grass really greener in other parts of the world? Depends on what's important to you. Here, we explore what work would be like if you lived in another country.

If you were to make a list of all the things you consider when taking a job, what would be on there? Would you include maternity leave policies, amount of vacation days, or average pay rates?

Every person is different when it comes to what they value in a job, so there really is no definitive way to say what is the best work environment.

Instead, we’ve culled together some of the most important statistics from countries around the world.

Most of the statistics come from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which has compared well-being factors like income and employment rates to work-life balance and safety across several different countries.

Here’s what we came up with:

Where are best job opportunities?

If you guessed that the majority of our Most Innovative Companies are located right in the U.S. in Silicon Valley, well, you’d be right.

But that’s the majority—meaning, there are still a bunch of great companies located outside of the U.S.

Some of the hottest companies right now are located on the other side of the world. Take for example, app customer-service company Nice Systems or Water-Gen, a company that creates water virtually out of thin air.

Both of these businesses, among several other innovative companies, are located in Israel, a country that has been dubbed by many the "Startup Nation."

According to the OECD, the average working age is between 15 and 64, and 66% of this overall population has a paid job. Employment levels are highest in Iceland (79%), Switzerland (79%), and Norway (75%) and lowest in Turkey (48%), Greece (56%), and Hungary (56%).

Young Swiss workers between 15 and 24 years old face an unemployment rate of less than 8%, which is half the OECD average of 16% unemployment. And the number of Swiss that has been unemployed for more than a year is almost half the world average of 3%.

Who earns the most?

Across the OECD, the average household net financial wealth is estimated to be $40,516 (U.S.), while the average household net-adjusted disposable income is $23,047 (U.S.) a year.

America tops the household income and financial wealth list, with an average household disposable income of $38,001 (U.S.) a year. In second and third place are Switzerland and Luxembourg.

At the same time, there is considerably more unequal income distribution between the richest and poorest in America, with the top 20% of the population earning about eight times as much as the bottom 20%.

By contrast, the Nordic and Eastern European countries have less income inequalities. For example, the top 20% of the population in Slovenia earn less than four times as much as the bottom 20%.

Over the past 15 years, financial wealth has increased considerably in countries like Israel, Germany, and Sweden. Germany now ranks in the top 10 OECD countries in terms of income with an average household net-adjusted disposable income of $28,799 (U.S.) a year.

Who is the happiest, healthiest, and most balanced?

Interestingly, the Scandinavian nations Denmark, Sweden, and Norway aren’t just some of the chilliest nations in the world, but they’re also the chillest.

Their well-being tops the charts in categories like life satisfaction and work-life balance, and they fare pretty well in the health category as well.

In Sweden, for example, life expectancy is almost 82 years, two years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Air pollution is considerably lower than the world average, and 95% of the population say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, compared to an average of 84%.

Overall, 85% of Swedes say they have more positive experiences—feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment—in an average day than negative ones like pain, worry, sadness, and boredom. This is 5% higher than the OECD average of 80% satisfaction.

While the average person works 1,776 hours a year and devotes close to 15 hours of their day to personal care and leisure, the U.S. doesn’t quite stack up when it comes to work-life balance. Americans spend less time taking care of themselves and more time working than the world average.

The U.S. is also the only OECD country without a national paid parental leave policy—protected parental leave is a short 12 weeks (and unpaid), compared to Estonia, whose government offers almost two years of paid parental leave.

Which brings us to our next question.

Where is the best place to raise a family?

You may consider several factors when deciding where to raise a family, including the best housing conditions, low crime rates, environmental quality, social support, and education.

Generally, the U.S. falls somewhere in the middle for most of these categories, though America’s housing conditions are ranked among the top countries.

Countries like Iceland, Canada, Finland, and Australia come out looking like top contenders for those looking to raise a family.

In Canada, for example, 90% of the population says they are satisfied with their current housing situation, which is more than the OECD average of 87%.

Our neighbors to the north also report the lowest assault rates in a 12-month period and a lower homicide rate than the OECD average. In fact, 81% of Canadians feel safe walking alone at night, which is 14% more than the world average.

Iceland, on the other hand, boasts the best social support networks—meaning people who live in Iceland have a lot of friends they feel they can rely on in a time of need. As the saying goes, "it takes a village," and Iceland is the best place to find that kind of support with 98% of the population reporting they have someone to lean on.

And if education is your top priority, it might be time to move to Finland, where the average 15-year-old outperforms her peers in other countries, according to the Programme for International Assessment.

Finns can also expect to attain more than 19 years of education, which is more than the OECD average of less than 17 years. And 83% of Finnish adults have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, 9% more than the world average.

So what’s your next move? Tell us in the comments what country would best suit your work needs. Did we miss any major consideration points?

[Image: Flickr user PopTech]

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  • I agree, work culture is super important when choosing what company to work for! I was reading about the best place to work in Australia, and seriously this company pays their workers to travel before their first day at work! They have so many perks, I would definitely work there! You should check it out: goo.gl/KRgj9g :)

  • I think it would be worth including work culture as well. To promote my own country Norway a bit ;-) In the Norwegian workplace it is great understanding towards the needs of family and children. Even CEOs will frequently leave the office early to pick up their kids in preschool. Your boss will be understanding towards you as a male taking paternity leave e.g. My impression is that in many other countries companies expect that the mother is going to take that responsibility exclusively.

    In Norway we also usually have a flat hierarchy. There are not a lot of levels and disagreeing with the boss isn't a problem as long as you aren't being purposefully an asshole or something.

    You can be a member of a union if you want to without the company actively working against you. You can also chose to not be even if most others are. Of course there are always bad apples, but in general I think people are usually quite compromise oriented whether employees, bosses or unions.

  • Scandanavian countries rock...with all the stolen money pre-WWII.

    I literally Laughed Out Loud to see United Kingdom on any of these lists. Living there for me was like how I imagined hell would/will be.

  • Paul Barber

    You cannot determine a countries status by a single personal experience. There are hell holes in every part of the world. It could be that you visited a hell hole in UK. Try a different place next time.

  • NICE Systems is a great place to work in Israel and in New Jersey. I'm lucky to work there and witness innovation coming back and forth across the ocean every day! As a former expat, I'm a firm believer that a global company is smart to have diverse talent through great people. I encourage anyone considering a move to read the book, "Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik -- a funny look at an American transplant in France. Get hooked and go!

  • Devashish Shukla

    Wow. Nice job. Thanks for all the scattered information compiled in one good article. :D

  • This mistakes income for purchase power parity. Prices vary, as do the household items that individuals have to pay for out of their own pockets vs what is provided by the public sector. Make those adjustments, adjust for the extreme wealth in a large country and you're unlikely to find typical Americans significantly better off than people in all the advanced (primarily north-west) European economies.

  • I live in Australia and I see a direct correlation between the Most Happy index and the Family Friendly index- those countries with kids aren't as happy as the ones without :D

  • Xavier Jaimes Castillo

    Canada! Absolutely... That's a real country with economic and political stability with great promises for the future of young entrpreneurs.

  • No, in fact Canada is a terrible country for entrepreneurs.


    Easy. A small population, large geographical area, and a complete lack of venture capital.

    Banks in Canada will not lend to businesses. They are a cartel that is subsidized by the government. Why should they lend money on risky business ventures (most of which fail), when they can get free mortgage insurance on home loans from the government (CMHC).

    Just try starting up a business and see how easy it is to attract investment. There are almost no angel investors or venture capitalists.

  • Simon Cundall

    America! Greencard please and me and all my skills, ideas and heart is yours!

    Love from New Zealand.

  • Uzma Paracha-Osman

    wow. awesome. my friend lives in oslo...hes never told me this :(

  • Vastradiant Yaz

    because Oslo is one of the highest cost of living in the world. *said my friend x))