independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Irish rate low in work-life balance but are happy

How happy are you with your work-life balance?

Finding a suitable balance between work and life is a challenge for all workers but the Irish believe they do better than most.

Recent figures from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development suggest that we don't have a particularly good life-work balance but we rate ourselves as largely happy with this important aspect of life.

The OECD research shows that people in the 34 nations examined spend somewhere between one-tenth and one-fifth of their time on unpaid work. The research also shows that the distribution of tasks within the family is still influenced by gender roles: men are more likely to spend more hours in paid work, while women spend longer in unpaid domestic work.

Here in Ireland, men spend 129 minutes per day cooking, cleaning or caring for others, less than the OECD average of 131 minutes and less than half as long as Irish women who spend 296 minutes per day on domestic work.

Another important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Everybody has a different notion of the right balance, of course.

In Greece, 12pc of workers say they spend too much time with their families while 7pc of Austrians complain that they don't spend enough time at work.

Evidence suggests that long work hours are bad for you because they can damage health, jeopardise safety and increase stress.

One of the other major reasons why Irish people do well on the index is that few of us work more than 50 hours a week – one of the chief indicators the OECD examines to calculate who has a good balance – and who does not – when it compiles its Better Life Initiative.

Less than 4pc of Irish workers put in more than 50 hours compared with 40pc in Turkey. Still, we are way behind the Netherlands and Sweden which both only have 0.001pc of their respective populations regularly working over 50 hours a week.

When it comes to total hours worked, we work less than most. We put in 1,664 hours a year, lower than the OECD average of 1,749 hours.

The figures show Americans are putting in 1,768 hours a year. That's over the Irish average by almost 100 hours – or more than two weeks a year.

When it comes to leisure and personal care, we don't do too well. The average person in the OECD devotes 62pc of the day, or 14.8 hours, to personal care (eating, sleeping) and leisure (socialising with friends and family, hobbies, games, computer and television use).

Here, we have 14.56 hours, significantly below average. If you're looking for the most personal time, moving to Belgium might be a good idea. Belgians have an average of 16.61 hours a day of time off, compared with the combined OECD average of 15.46 hours.

Still, one of the things we do know is that despite all the complaints about Ireland's car culture, nobody in the OECD spends less time commuting than the Irish which contributes to our work-life balance.

Irish Independent

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