August 3, 2018

Best Countries for Work-Life Balance and Why Millennials are Moving There

The Young Urban Creative is a rapidly expanding segment of millennials, who are actively looking for international job opportunities and willing to move abroad to achieve the perfect work-life balance. A growing number of them are jumping online to work virtually or outright found and operate a start-up business in an environment they enjoy.

Millennials enjoy living in urban areas where they can bike, motor scooter or simply walk to work, socialize with friends and have lots of choices for entertainment. Millennials are choosing international careers because the cost of living abroad gives them disposable more income and flexibility to travel.

How Work-Life Balance is Determined

best cities for millennials

One of the biggest reasons why millennials are looking for work-life balance overseas, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is because the U.S. lags way behind in work-life balance. Work-life balance is measured by the amount of hours worked per week versus the amount of time spent on social activities. In the U.S., the hours consumed by work are very high when compared to the hours socializing.

In their search for a more rewarding work-life, millennials are moving into urban areas rich with access to a thriving social scene like in the U.S.: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Denver, and Atlanta. But this flood of re-urbanization has priced many millennials out of being able to buy a home or even affordably rent in the areas they want to live and work.

Millennials are flocking overseas and looking for international job opportunities as the international cost of living is more affordable and offers a better work-life balance. So millennials are searching for international job opportunities in countries offering a better work-life balance than their home country.

Factors Comprising Work-Life Balance Rankings

working abroad in spain

According to that report from theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development, to achieve this balance, the ideal place to live and work must:

  1. Have affordable housing
  2. Pay a good income
  3. Offer an enjoyable job
  4. Be in a vibrant community
  5. Allow for continuing education
  6. Be an environment not overrun with gentrification or pollution
  7. Have access to reliable and affordable healthcare
  8. Provide safety at both work and play

With the above list of attributes in mind, where do you think the U.S. ranks? America ranks #29 for work-life balance, mainly because U.S. workers spend a greater proportion of their time working and commuting to work with little time left for social activities.

Some of the Best Countries for Work-Life Balance


The Danes have a robust social support system and highly flexible work conditions. Danes can even choose when to start their work day.

All workers receive a minimum of 5 weeks paid vacation a year. The welfare system ensures no member of Danish society goes without, thus contributing to a very high standard of living.


Expats view Spain as a safe place to work and live. Spain shines in its ability to make new residents feel welcome.

Spain also wins high marks for its transportation system, making it easy for expats to enjoy their free time. The medical care and overall infrastructure are also highly rated.

Russian Federation

working abroad in russia

Expats enjoy high salaries in Russia. Many careers there offer more excitement for personal growth.

Russia scores particular high in work-life balance because it is easy to make friends with the locals, who often introduce expats to a rich social life.


The friendly Irish make the land of the green a top English-speaking destination for expats looking to work overseas. Employers there are introducing policies aimed at successfully producing a better work-life balance.

Some Irish companies close business operations for lunch between the hours of 1pm to 2pm. The work week does not extend beyond 48 hours for most employees.


Breathtaking picturesque Brazil is South America’s largest economy and while recent economic indicators show some stagnation, the international job opportunities for English-speaking applicants are still robust. There are expat job opportunities in Fortune 500 companies  operating in Brazil like SAP, Cummins, Baker Hughes, Hilton, GlaxoSmithKline, etc.

Brazil is #1 in the world for the most paid vacation days annually. Along with the 11 paid federal holidays, Brazil mandates 30 more days off specifically for leisure activity.

The hours worked in a day in Brazil are below the average of all countries. Undoubtedly, the above average days off are part of the reason why Brazil ranks high for social connections, well-being, and work-life balance.

Costa Rica

working abroad in Costa Rica

In Central America, Costa Rica continues to draw more expats looking for a better work-life balance. The warm climate and exquisite natural environment combined with a lower cost of living is drawing more millennials to this country.

Locals refer to living in Costa Rica as the “Tico lifestyle”, which balances work with time to enjoy this spectacular country. Expats don’t have to plan a trip to experience nature because they are immersed in on a daily basis.

According to the Happy Plan Index, people in Costa Rica are happier; in fact they consistently rank at or near the top of the index for happiness among all countries.


On the other side of the globe, emerging Asian economies like ChinaIndia and Thailand are seeing upticks in expats relocating there. These countries offer lower costs of living abroad with inexpensive healthcare, housing, and food. Additionally, there are lots of recreational and social activities, which make it an attractive place for expats.

Expats looking for overseas job opportunities are cashing in on China’s demand for white collar skills. Almost 25% of expats working in China earn a whopping $300K a year, according to a CNN report.

Expats are able to save money and pay off debt because of China’s inexpensive cost of living. Food and household goods in China are relatively cheap compared to other countries.

India is high on the list of countries for expats looking for job opportunities. The vibrant social scene and entertainment deliver the work-life balance millennials seek. The rich culture and history combined with spicy food, makes India an enticing place for expats.

working abroad in india

As the cost of living is low, expats use their savings to travel and explore different areas of India such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Kerala, Jaipur, and Bangalore. Expats can visit the famous Taj Mahal and Gateway of India while checking out local hotspots such as the HAL Aerospace Museum, City Palace, Marina Beach, and Kapaleeshwarar Temple.

Another favorite for expats looking to relocate is Thailand. The scenery from the beaches to the mountains is stunning. Expats describe Thailand’s cost of living as very affordable and the food is fresh and flavorful. The cuisine is another main ingredient contributing to Thailand’s nickname, “Land of Smiles.”

Middle East

In the Middle East, countries like Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Dubai are bubbling with activity for international careers. Forbes magazine calls Dubai the “new hot-spot for young professionals.” The region is continuing to place ore importance on work-life balance.

working abroad in dubai

Companies in Dubai are implementing work-life balance programs and putting policies in place to boost job performance and satisfaction. Employees are encouraged and given the time to play sports, enjoy social and family activities, and do volunteer work.

Comfort and Safety

The millennials are the first generation to completely grow up with the Internet and being constantly connected has made their world a global village. A large portion of them are working remote online in a city they feel the most comfortable.

When researching about other countries for relocation, find out about the various risks you may encounter while working and living abroad. Check out our country risk assessment guides to learn more about the country that you are considering for an international job opportunity. The risk assessment will answer all of your questions concerning about health, security, and the political climate.

By planning ahead and conducting your due diligence, you’ll be well-equipped to land your dream job overseas. Do you have the skills that allow you to pick and choose where you want to live and work? Read more about find out the top 10 most portable careers.

When looking for international job opportunities, learn about international business customs such as not losing face or being aware of religious beliefs. To find out more, read the full article on top 10 tips on international business customs.

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