comments_image Comments

5 Countries Where You Don't Have to Work Yourself to Death to Make Ends Meet

America is no worker's paradise.

Continued from previous page


3. Brazil: Vacation heaven.

Brazil may not outrank the US overall because so many of its workers work long hours, but get a load of their vacation policy. The outward view of Brazilians is that they like to have a good time whether it’s dancing or at the beach or just barbecuing with the fam, so it’s no wonder that according to this CNBC piece, they have a ”minimum of 30 days for vacation and 11 days for public holidays.” How lovely does that sound?

4. Sweden: World leader in paternity leave.

Sharing the burden is the name of the game in Sweden, where visitors describe an army of stroller-pushing dads. The Wall Street Journal reported last month:

Sweden's paternity-leave benefits, enjoyed by citizens and foreign residents alike, are the most generous in the world—and a debate is under way nationwide over whether to extend them even further. Sweden should require men to take a minimum of three months' leave, instead of the current two months, some politicians argue.

Fathers currently can take off work for as long as 240 days with a government-backed paycheck. Even if a father decides to take a more modest leave than allowed, he must take at least two months before the child is 8 years old to receive the government benefits.

Actually, in Sweden there’s a total of 13 months of leave that has to be split by two parents. Even the conservative party, which thinks the leave shouldn’t be mandated by gender is in favor of expanding parental leave.

5. France: Lavishing love on moms. France’s great parental policies belie the fact that gender equality is still not the norm here. But what they do have makes life a lot easier for new parents: subsidized daycare, easy-to-afford healthcare, and lengthy periods of paid and unpaid--but with job guaranteees--parental leave and home nurse visits. Back in 2008, NPR profiled American families who had babies in France:

There is a neighborhood health clinic, where she can show up with the baby anytime, with or without an appointment. She gets letters from a local health authority telling her what benefits are available and when she should come to a clinic with her daughter for her regular checkups.

When Ella got a stomach flu earlier this year, a doctor made a house call at 3 a.m. on a Sunday. It was paid for entirely by health insurance.

This is the kind of comprehensive coverage that gets France's health care rated the best in the world by the World Health Organization. It's also why France has some of the world's lowest infant mortality rates and some of the highest birth rates in Europe.

No other place is perfect, but as I learned through my research, each of these countries has something unique to offer its citizens. Here in America, this issue is on the radar in a way it hasn't been before, evidenced by the fact that companies continue to pioneer interesting vacation solutions to prevent burnout and their ideas are getting play in the national media ( check out this place, which tailors its schedule to the seasons).

Sarah Seltzer is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer and find her work at

See more stories tagged with: