Parental Life-Work Balance Index

Where’s the best country to raise a family? Our study reveals the nations that are prioritizing life-work balance for parents.

At Remote, we’re strong advocates for the power of a harmonious life-work balance. Maintaining that balance is key to reducing burnout, driving productivity, and ultimately building a happy, healthy workforce.

Taking into account several factors that impact working parents — such as parental leave policies, annual leave entitlements, childcare costs, and access to healthcare — we’ve analyzed 20 of the world’s leading countries for parental life-work balance, assessing which nations are recognizing the rights of parents by putting family first. 

Top 20 leading countries for parental life-work balance

Selecting 20 leading countries based on population and global economic presence, we collated data on a selection of family-specific factors, scoring each nation on its performance in each category. We then assigned each country an overall index score, ranking the 20 from most to least family friendly.

& Continent
score / 100
Statutory parental leave packages rankRank based on maternity and paternity statutory time off in weeks and percentage of wage paid (lowest best) Statutory annual leaveTotal days of paid leave, including public holidays (highest best)Safety: Global peace indexLowest bestExpense: Cost of living indexLowest bestChildcare Cost: Monthly price of preschool for 1 child for full daysUSD $ (lowest best)Support: Public expenditure on family benefitsPercent of GDP (highest best)Education: Public expenditure on childcare & pre-primary educationPercent of GDP (highest best)Healthcare Happiness indexHighest best
79.572331.5579.2312.823.281.4universal government-funded system7.32
78.0110271.6362.2135.443.421.6universal government-funded system7.4
77.238351.3175.2492.83.311.2universal government-funded system7.59
72.621341.6548.4441.871.480.5universal government-funded system6.44
5New Zealand,
71.769351.3168.2779.182.650.9universal government-funded system7.12
70.261181.6341.9325.773.350.6universal public insurance system6.26
66.95321.6658.9563.891.870.6universal government-funded system6.4
66.436361.9466727.183.441.3universal public insurance system6.66
65.578301.4662.7427.393.240.8universal public-private insurance system6.89
61.851126 10 paid holiday days. 16 unpaid public holidays. There are no legal provisions for pay on public holidays.However Japan does have 16 national public holidays established by the Public Holiday Law.1.3450.7339.41.950.8universal public insurance system6.13

Key findings

  • Nordic countries perform incredibly well for parental life-work balance, with Norway, Sweden, and Denmark ranking as the top three in our 20-country review. 
  • Europe is the leading continent when it comes to providing support for working families, with European countries making up 8 of the top 10.
  • Spain and Poland ranked highest for maternity and paternity leave specifically, based on their average scores for leave duration and payment rate.
  • New Zealand topped our Global Work-Life Balance Index in 2023 and it also scores well here, coming in 5th for its parental support policies.
  • With an index score of 60.06 out of 100, the United Kingdom narrowly misses the top 10, with the country’s high childcare costs contributing to the drop.
  • The United States is the lowest-ranking country in our index, with a lack of statutory leave and a complex healthcare system that often penalizes low-income families.


Overall index score: 79.57

Shining brightly like the Northern Lights — which are often visible in the skies above this Scandinavian country — Norway tops our list with an overall index score of 79.57. The Norwegian working culture is characterized by a strong focus on equality and work-life balance, with many companies offering flexible work hours and the option to work remotely.

In addition to one of the most generous parental leave policies worldwide (working mums are offered 54 weeks of paid maternity leave), Norway also spends more than many other nations on family benefits. And while the country has a very high comparable cost of living, it boasts a universal healthcare system and a relatively ample annual leave entitlement.

Norway employment guide



Overall index score: 78.01

Sharing a 1,600km border with Norway, Sweden sits just behind its neighbor when it comes to parental life-work balance. The country has a strong commitment to workplace wellness — with many businesses offering “wellness allowances” — while the Swedish workplace culture is synonymous with openness, trust, and a lack of hierarchy. 

Sweden is among the countries with the best childcare overall, spending more of its GDP on pre-primary education than any other nation while also setting very affordable childcare costs. The country also has a strong commitment to gender equality in its parental leave policies, becoming the first nation to introduce gender-neutral parental leave in 1974.

Sweden employment guide



Overall index score: 77.23

Confirming that Scandinavia sets the benchmark when it comes to parental support in the workplace, Denmark rounds out the top three in our index. The Danes are considered to be the happiest people in the world, and this is surely at least partly down to the country’s healthy attitude to work — with outcomes more important than when or where work takes place.

As evidenced in our previous European Life-Work Balance Index, life-work balance is a foundation of Danish culture, with the Danes enjoying a generous statutory annual leave entitlement. The country is also considered one of the safest places for families, while public expenditure on childcare, family benefits, and pre-primary education is higher than most other nations. 

Denmark employment guide



Overall index score: 72.62

Spain’s high ranking here is unsurprising given it took the second spot in our 2023 Global Work-Life Balance Index, owing to a healthy overall working culture that prioritizes wellbeing — not to mention its 3,000 hours of average annual sunshine. Many Spaniards still enjoy a mid-afternoon siesta, allowing them to recharge before returning to work later in the day.

No country in our index can boast more generous combined maternity and paternity leave policies (with 12 weeks of paid paternity leave), while a relatively low cost of living makes Spain an affordable place to raise a family. The country’s statutory annual leave entitlement is also among the most generous in Europe.

Spain employment guide


New Zealand

Overall index score: 71.76

The highest-ranked non-European country on our list is the Antipodean nation of New Zealand. Voted the world’s most beautiful country in at least one survey, New Zealand also ranked #1 in our 2023 global index for its healthy harmony between life and work. Hard work is a prerequisite of New Zealand’s culture, but just as important is making time for non-work pursuits.

While childcare tends to be quite expensive, New Zealand does have one of the highest minimum wages worldwide. It’s also seen as one of the safest countries to live in, making it ideal for family life. New Zealanders (or Kiwis, as they’re affectionately known) also enjoy generous annual leave entitlement and a high overall happiness score.

New Zealand employment guide



Overall index score: 70.26

With a rich cultural history, Poland is not typically renowned for its work-life balance — most organizations favor hierarchy and Poles believe “punktualność jest złotem” (punctuality is golden) — but it is one of the most affordable places to raise children, with a low cost of living, economical childcare costs, and a high state contribution to family benefits.

In addition to fairly generous statutory maternity and paternity leave packages, parents in Poland may also share up to 32 weeks of parental leave. It’s important to note, however, that the country does not recognize LGBTQ+ couples and therefore same-sex parents are not afforded the same rights. 

Poland employment guide



Overall index score: 66.90

Many of us are surely envious of the Italian lifestyle. With some of the world’s finest cuisine, a rich cultural heritage synonymous with art and fashion, and a favorable climate for most of the year, Italians also know the importance of family — most families in Italy are close-knit, and there’s a strong emphasis on spending time together. 

The Italian working culture is typically quite hierarchical, with a “work hard, play hard” mentality, but the country is generally favorable for working parents due to a relatively low cost of living and affordable childcare costs. Italian parents can take advantage of nine months of leave, with three months allocated to each parent and the remaining three months shared between them.

Italy employment guide



Overall index score: 66.43

Like their border-sharing Italian counterparts, the French have a reputation for knowing how to live the good life. The lifestyle in France tends to be about savoring small moments, but the country is also known for striking a healthy balance between life and work, with one of the shortest average working weeks of any European nation.

France boasts the most generous statutory annual leave entitlement of any country on our list, while it also makes the highest financial contribution to family benefits — though this is somewhat offset by a reasonably high cost of living and fairly steep childcare costs.

France employment guide



Overall index score: 65.57

One of Europe's largest and most populous countries, the German spirit is often associated with precision and pragmatism. These characteristics may blend into the working culture — Germans have longer average working weeks than many of their European neighbors — but the country still caters reasonably well to working families. 

In particular, Germany spends a high proportion of its GDP on family-related benefits, while also having reasonably low childcare costs compared to nations such as France and the United Kingdom. There is no government-funded healthcare system; however, most residents are enrolled in a statutory health insurance program.

Germany employment guide



Overall index score: 61.85

Rounding up the top 10 is the highest-ranked Asian nation on our list. The working culture in Japan is often characterized by extreme dedication to one’s career — with long working hours common — which is perhaps why it didn’t rank quite so highly in our 2023 Global Life-Work Balance Index, coming in at #38 of the 60 countries we analyzed.

However, while Japan’s holiday and parental leave policies are quite restrictive, the country is considered one of the safest places for families. It also has a relatively low average cost of living, while childcare costs are lower than the majority of nations included in our index, making it Asia’s most family-centric nation.

Japan employment guide

What is parental life-work balance?

Life-work balance (yes, that way around) is a healthy equilibrium between our personal and professional lives. It is a framework that ensures we can perform our jobs effectively and progress in our careers while being able to make time for our families, non-work passions, and personal commitments.

As many working parents will tell you, raising children is a job in itself, and juggling childcare with work can be challenging — particularly in the early stages of a child’s life. Parental life-work balance recognizes this, stressing the importance of support for working families and allowing them to straddle family responsibilities and the demands of a career.

Parental life-work balance encompasses several factors that extend beyond formal policies such as maternity and paternity leave. Although statutory leave and pay are crucial for working parents, factors such as childcare, education, healthcare, and cost of living weigh equally on a parent’s mind.

Why are parental support policies so important?

For working parents, achieving a healthy life-work balance can be particularly challenging. The combination of job-related responsibilities and childcare commitments often leaves little time to recharge.

Nearly 9 in 10 families have at least one working parent, highlighting the critical need for employers to recognize the rights of parents in the workplace. Parental support is a vital part of a positive working culture, helping businesses attract and retain star employees who just happen to have (or plan to have) children.

Company policies are just one piece of the puzzle, though. In the era of remote work, parents now have the power to relocate their families if one location offers a better future than another.

“Increasingly, we see parents moving to countries they feel can offer the best possible life for their children, and bringing their remote jobs with them. Creating policies for working parents is no longer just a domestic issue within each country but also an issue of attracting the best international talent.” Barbara Matthews, Chief People Officer at Remote.

Factors such as affordable childcare, investment in education, and the overall cost of living are equally important considerations for working parents, while different families weigh their options in different ways — LGBTQIA+ couples with children, surrogate mothers and intended parents, and those who choose to adopt all have different needs.

Ambitious companies seeking the world's best international talent will benefit from developing competitive and attractive paid parental leave policies, as well as benefits programs that include provisions to support working parents.

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Learn how to simplify your planned relocation with this walkthrough guide. We outline the key steps for you and your employer to enable a compliant, efficient, and hassle-free move.

Relocation Guide download

Why is parental life-work balance so essential?

As a parent, having an employer who understands the need for flexibility and support in the workplace is vital, because it empowers you to perform to the best of your ability as both an employee and a caregiver. It ensures working parents have time to adjust to the demands of raising a child and, if applicable, helps them transition back to work after starting a family.

For employers, offering parental support is no mere box-ticking exercise; it plays a critical role in fostering a healthy company culture, which can have a number of significant benefits. For example:

  • A healthy parental life-work balance can reduce burnout, while overworked parents are more likely to be absent from work through stress or illness.
  • A well-balanced family life can increase productivity, with working parents having time to recharge and are often more focused during working hours.
  • Businesses that support the needs of parents can improve retention rates, with working (and would-be) parents more likely to stay loyal to family-friendly companies.
  • Employers displaying a commitment to parental life-work balance may attract more candidates, with inclusive policies appealing to potential employees.
  • Companies that adopt flexible policies for parents can enhance agility, being able to react quickly to unforeseen personnel challenges.
  • Fair and transparent parental policies help foster diversity and inclusion, where employees’ rights are respected regardless of their personal circumstances.

Inclusive parenting policies are particularly crucial because not all families follow the ‘traditional’ structure. We believe employers have a responsibility to provide parental support regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of parents, for example, or whether the child has joined the family through surrogacy or adoption.

Fortunately, many nations are recognizing the importance of the rights of all parents, with nations such as Norway and Germany offering parental leave policies that consider adoptive and biological parents as one and the same. However, some countries still have a way to go, with some not yet recognizing the rights of LGBTQIA+ couples.

Our deep dive into global parental support underscores the vital role that fair policies and inclusive work cultures play in fostering life-work balance for parents. This is not just about offering generous parental leave and affordable childcare options, but also promoting an environment where all families feel valued and supported. 

As we continue to navigate the complexities of modern work and family life, it’s clear that the path to a happier, healthier workforce lies in recognizing and addressing the unique needs of working parents — setting a global standard for parental support that benefits everyone.


We conducted our index data analysis of 20 top countries to see which global players offer working parents the best family and parental life-work balance. Countries were selected based on their population and global economic presence — Russia, China, Ukraine, and Israel were not included due to their ongoing socio-political issues. The data was collected in February 2024.

The index considered the following metrics: 

  • Statutory maternity and paternity packages (lowest best)*
  • Statutory annual leave (total days of paid leave, including public holidays)*
  • Safety: Global Peace Index score (lowest best)
  • Cost of Living Index score (lowest best)
  • Childcare costs: price rankings by country of preschool (or kindergarten), full day, private, monthly for 1 child
  • OECD public expenditure on family benefits, in percent of GDP (highest best)
  • OECD public expenditure on childcare and pre-primary education, in percent of GDP (highest best)
  • Healthcare status (rating lowest best)
  • Happiness Index (highest best)

The metrics were adjusted with index weights to reflect relative importance, providing each country with an overall score out of 100. High to low or low to high data point weightings are indicated above.

*When a range was offered, the minimum amount was listed.