A new revelation is reinforcing a hunch that I have had for quite some time now: It is time to pack my bags and move to the one of the happiest places on Earth. According to the 2015 World Happiness Report, the Netherlands is once again among the top 10 happiest countries to live in.
What makes the Dutch people so happy? Well, aside from the many government social benefits and the high standard of living, people there also work a lot less than their American counterparts.
On the “20 Happiest Countries” chart generated by the report, the United States ranked 15th, between Brazil (16th) and Mexico (14th). While Americans are busy working their infamous nine-to-five work schedules, the Dutch are busy rallying their government to protect their right to part-time work. Ranked among the richest countries in the world with the sixth-largest economy in the euro-zone, the Netherlands must be doing something right.
Those in the Netherlands attribute a part of their high happiness index to the fact that more than half of the working Dutch population are employed part-time. The Economist found that 26.8% of men and 76.6% of women there work under 36 hours a week. In the EU, only a fifth of the working population are part-time: 8.7% of whom are men and 32.2% of whom are women. These numbers can be compared with the 18.9% who work part-time in the U.S.: 12.6% of whom are men and 25.8% of whom are women.
The emphasis for part-time work in the Netherlands could be explained in part by the fact that women were relative latecomers in the Dutch workforce. Strongly held Christian values also influenced the government to provide state aid that enabled women to stay at home with children. These traditional values prevailed even by the late 1980s when women began entering the job market. As a result, the state collaborated closely with employers, and in 2000, a law was introduced to ensure that men and women had the right to request more relaxed work schedule hours. Since then, shorter and more flexible workweeks have been the norm in the Netherlands, and the advent of the “daddy day,” in which men took a day off to stay at home and tend to childcare duties, also became popular.
The Dutch seem to have their work-life balance right. Time to quit that nine to five, purchase a one-way ticket to the Netherlands and live happily ever after.