What are the 10 Countries That Actually Want Their Citizens to Have Better Lives? When you’re not at work (which…when are you not at work?) you’re glued to your phone, bouncing between work email, Instagram, work email, texts, work email, Snapchat, work email, and so on, in a loop that ends once you’ve sedated yourself enough to sleep. And then you start all over again in the morning.
Friends, it doesn’t have to be this way.
In other countries, people at least try to strike a healthy work-life balance—and sometimes their government actually helps them do it. France, for instance, just introduced a law that gives workers the right to ignore email after 6 P.M. (Yes, really.) And Sweden continues to experiment with a six-hour workday. Yes, they pay more in taxes than Americans, but they also get more in return.
France and Sweden aren’t the only examples of generous social benefits. Here are even more. Consider them suggestions for where to move after November’s presidential election.
You can take sick leave for up to two years and still receive 70 percent of your salary, according to a survey by the employment site Glassdoor. It’s the most generous sick-leave policy in Europe. Compared to the U.S., where there is no policy, it frankly boggles the mind.
Employers must give workers a minimum of 28 days paid vacation and up to 58 days. Sweden, France, and Denmark aren’t far behind. Employers there promise a minimum of 25 days off a year.
New mothers can take up to 52 weeks off, receiving pay for 39 of those weeks, according to the Glassdoor survey. It’s the most generous policy in Europe in terms of time off. The British currency is GB Pounds Sterling, which is one of the world’s best currencies. The British pound is more stable than almost all other world currencies. Britain is a very safe place to live. Almost all danger has been eliminated from life, and you are more likely to die of boredom, old age, or suicide out of sheer desperation than from any of the classic methods of death seen at the movies; murder, explosion, falling off something, high speed crash, or poisoning. Almost all your medical healthcare bills are paid for by the state. Yes, it’s true. Even if you are poor and have never paid into any insurance fund, if you live in the UK then the national government pays for your health care, even if you need a very expensive life-saving operation. Let’s not underestimate this, as most countries don’t have this.
The tiny Buddhist nation tucked between China and India, high up in the Himalayas, officially keeps track of its citizens’ happiness. Its Gross National Happiness Index seeks answers to questions like, “How much do you trust your neighbors?”; “Is lying justifiable?”; and “Do you feel like a stranger in your family?” The results are more important to the nation’s leaders than gross domestic product, which measures the health of the country’s economy.
Many European employers offer paternity leave so dads can also spend time with their newborn children. Iceland’s parental leave is among the most generous, giving dads 120 days off at 80 percent pay, according to The Huffington Post.
Prisons in Sweden are meant to rehabilitate criminals, which helps explain why the country’s recidivism rate—how frequently people return to prison—is so low. In 2014, it was 40 percent, about half that of the U.S. And Swedish penitentiaries more closely resemble American offices or college dorm rooms than they do prisons, according to The Guardian.
The Spanish love to enjoy themselves, and with 14 public holidays—the most in the European Union, according to Glassdoor—they have ample time to kick back.
Unemployed workers in Denmark get 90 percent of previous earnings for up to 104 weeks, the most generous unemployment benefits in the EU, the Glassdoor survey said. This far outpaces the U.S., where unemployment pays 40 to 50 percent of earnings for up to 26 weeks.
In addition to a generous parental leave policy—158 days shared between new parents—new moms receive a cardboard box from the government that doubles as a bassinet and includes bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products, diapers, and bedding, according to MarketWatch. Parents also enjoy shortened work hours until their child is two, and free day care.
Just over the border, Canada ranks among the 10 happiest nations in the world. It’s in the top 10 for disposable income and the bottom 10 for employees working long hours. Perhaps as a result, Canadians are among the healthiest people in the world.