Work–Life Balance and Life Satisfaction in OECD Countries: A Cross-Sectional Analysis

  • Hideo NodaEmail author
Research Paper


Work–life balance, as an effort to achieve a balance between work and personal (family) life, has been a key area of concern in labor policies since the early 2000s. One factor contributing to this trend is the implicit assumption that implementing a work–life balance policy increases people’s life satisfaction. The association between work–life balance and life satisfaction, however, is not self-evident. In this article, we investigate the effect of work–life balance on life satisfaction using data on men and women in OECD countries. A cross-sectional analysis suggests that implementing work–life balance policy leads to the improvement of life satisfaction for both men and women. However, the work–life balance elasticity of life satisfaction—the percentage change in life satisfaction in response to a 1% change in the level of work–life balance—is greater for men than for women. Conventionally, work–life balance issues have predominantly been thought to concern women rather than men. The present results imply that institutional design that adequately incorporates the work–life balance of both men and women is important for increasing life satisfaction.


Work–life balance Life satisfaction Health Unemployment Income inequality 



An earlier version of this article was presented at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the Japan Economic Policy Association, Kokushikan University, May 2015. I am grateful to Professor Hiroyuki Kawanobe for constructive comments and discussions. Two anonymous reviewers have also offered helpful remarks, which have made this article more valuable and readable.


  1. Abendroth, A.-K., & Den Dulk, L. (2011). Support for the work-life balance in Europe: The impact of state, workplace and family support on work-life balance satisfaction. Work, Employment and Society, 25(2), 234–256.Google Scholar
  2. Adame, C., Caplliure, E.-M., & Miquel, M.-J. (2016). Work-life balance and firms: A matter of women? Journal of Business Research, 69(4), 1379–1383.Google Scholar
  3. Adame-Sánchez, C., González-Cruz, T. F., & Martínez-Fuentes, C. (2016). Do firms implement work-life balance policies to benefit their workers or themselves? Journal of Business Research, 69(11), 5519–5523.Google Scholar
  4. Alesina, A., Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2004). Inequality and happiness: Are Europeans and Americans different? Journal of Public Economics, 88(9–10), 2009–2042.Google Scholar
  5. Anand, S., & Segal, P. (2015). The global distribution of income. In A. B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (Eds.), Handbook of income distribution (Vol. 2A, pp. 937–979). Amsterdam: Elsevier. (Chapter 11).Google Scholar
  6. Anttila, T., Oinas, T., Tammelin, M., & Nätti, J. (2015). Working-time regimes and work-life balance in Europe. European Sociological Review, 31(6), 713–724.Google Scholar
  7. Asakura, M. (2010). Position of work-life balance in the labor and employment law. The Japanese Journal of Labour Studies, 52(6), 41–52. (in Japanese).Google Scholar
  8. Bharathi, S. V., & Mala, E. P. (2016). A study on the determinants of work-life balance of women employees in information technology companies in India. Global Business Review, 17(3), 1–19.Google Scholar
  9. Block, R. N., Berg, P., & Roberts, K. (2003). Comparing and quantifying labour standards in the United States and the European Union. International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, 19(4), 441–467.Google Scholar
  10. Block, R. N., Malin, M. H., Kossek, E. E., & Holt, A. (2006). The legal and administrative context of work and family leave and related policies in the USA, Canada and the European Union. In F. Jones, R. J. Burke, & M. Westman (Eds.), Work-life balance: A psychological perspective (pp. 39–68). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bloom, N., Kretschmer, T., & Van Reenen, J. (2011). Are family-friendly workplace practices a valuable firm resource? Strategic Management Journal, 32(4), 343–367.Google Scholar
  12. Bloom, N., & Van Reenen, J. (2006). Management practices, work-life balance, and productivity: A review of some recent evidence. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 22(4), 457–482.Google Scholar
  13. Bourguignon, F., & Morrison, C. (2002). Inequality among world citizens: 1820–1992. American Economic Review, 92(4), 727–744.Google Scholar
  14. Brougham, D., & Jarrod, H. (2017). Employee assessment of their technological redundancy. Labour and Industry, 27(3), 213–231.Google Scholar
  15. Brougham, D., & Jarrod, H. (2018). Smart technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and algorithms (STARA): employees’ perceptions of our future workplace. Journal of Management and Organization, 24(2), 239–257.Google Scholar
  16. Chandra, V. (2012). Work-life balance: Eastern and western perspectives. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(5), 1040–1056.Google Scholar
  17. Crompton, R., & Lyonette, C. (2006). Work-life ‘balance’ in Europe. Acta Sociologica, 49(4), 379–393.Google Scholar
  18. Darcy, C., McCarthy, A., Hill, J., & Grady, G. (2012). Work-life balance: One size fits all? An exploratory analysis of the differential effects of career stage. European Management Journal, 30(2), 111–120.Google Scholar
  19. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(1), 94–122.Google Scholar
  20. Frey, B. S. (2008). Happiness: A revolution in economics. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Frey, B. S. (2018). Economics of happiness. Cham: Springer.Google Scholar
  22. Gallie, D. (2003). The quality of working life: Is Scandinavia different? European Sociological Review, 19(1), 61–79.Google Scholar
  23. Geurts, S. A. E., Beckers, D. G., Taris, T. W., Kompier, M. A. J., & Smulders, P. G. W. (2009). Worktime demands and work-family interference: Does worktime control buffer the adverse effects of high demands? Journal of Business Ethics, 84(2), 229–241.Google Scholar
  24. Golden, L., Henly, J. R., & Lambert, S. (2013). Work schedule flexibility: A contributor to happiness? Journal of Social Research and Policy, 4(2), 107–135.Google Scholar
  25. Golden, L., & Wiens-Tuers, B. (2006). To your happiness? Extra hours of labor supply and worker well-being. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 35(2), 382–397.Google Scholar
  26. Helliwell, J. F., & Huang, H. (2014). New measures of the costs of unemployment: Evidence from the subjective well-being of 3.3 million Americans. Economic Inquiry, 52(4), 1485–1502.Google Scholar
  27. Helpman, E. (2004). Mystery of economic growth. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Ikeda, S. (2010). Review of sociological research on work-life balance. The Japanese Journal of Labour Studies, 52(6), 22–31. (in Japanese).Google Scholar
  29. Karkoulian, S., Srour, J., & Sinan, T. (2016). A gender perspective on work-life balance, perceived stress, and locus of control. Journal of Business Research, 69(11), 4918–4923.Google Scholar
  30. Kato, T., & Kodama, N. (2018). Women in the workplace and management practices: Theory and evidence. In S. L. Averett, L. M. Argys, & S. D. Hoffman (Eds.), Oxford handbook of women and the economy (pp. 561–593). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Knight, J., Song, L., & Gunatilaka, R. (2009). Subjective well-being and its determinants in rural China. China Economic Review, 20(4), 635–649.Google Scholar
  32. Kodama, N. (2007). Effects of work-life balance programs on female employment. Japan Labor Review, 4(4), 97–119.Google Scholar
  33. Kyo, K., Noda, H., & Kitagawa, G. (2013). Bayesian analysis of unemployment dynamics in Japan. Asian Journal of Management Science and Applications, 1(1), 4–25.Google Scholar
  34. Morikawa, M. (2017). Firms’ expectations about the Impact of AI and robotics: Evidence from a survey. Economic Inquiry, 55(2), 1054–1063.Google Scholar
  35. Morozumi, M. (2008). Basic principles of work-life balance: A legal approach. The Journal of Ohara Institute for Social Research, 595, 36–53. (in Japanese).Google Scholar
  36. Ochsen, C., & Welsch, H. (2011). The social costs of unemployment: Accounting for unemployment duration. Applied Economics, 43(27), 3999–4005.Google Scholar
  37. OECD. (2011a). Divided we stand: why inequality keeps rising. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  38. OECD. (2011b). How’s life? Measuring well-being. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  39. Oshio, T. (2014). Determinants of happiness: Economics of subjective well-being. Tokyo: Nikkei Publishing Inc. (in Japanese).Google Scholar
  40. Oshio, T., & Kobayashi, M. (2011). Area-level income inequality and individual happiness: Evidence from Japan. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(4), 633–649.Google Scholar
  41. Oshio, T., & Urakawa, K. (2014). The association between perceived income inequality and subjective well-being: Evidence from a social survey in Japan. Social Indicators Research, 116(3), 755–770.Google Scholar
  42. Ouchi, S. (2009). What labor law can do to achieve work-life balance. The Japanese Journal of Labour Studies, 51(2), 30–41. (in Japanese).Google Scholar
  43. Sala-i-Martin, X. (2006). The world distribution of income: Falling poverty and convergence, period. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 121(2), 351–397.Google Scholar
  44. Stutzer, A., & Lalive, R. (2004). The role of social work norms in job searching and subjective well-being. Journal of the European Economic Association, 2(4), 696–719.Google Scholar
  45. Szücs, S., Drobnič, S., den Dulk, L., & Verwiebe, R. (2011). Quality of life and satisfaction with the work-life balance. In M. Bäck-Wiklund, T. van der Lippe, L. den Dulk, & A. Doorne-Huiskes (Eds.), Quality of life and work in Europe: Theory, practice and policy (pp. 95–117). London: Palgrave Macmillan. (Chapter 6).Google Scholar
  46. Tomlinson, J. (2007). Employment regulation, welfare and gender regimes: A comparative analysis of women’s working-time patterns and work-life balance in the UK and the US. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18(3), 401–415.Google Scholar
  47. Vasumathi, A. (2018). Work life balance of women employees: A literature review. International Journal of Services and Operations Management, 29(1), 100–146.Google Scholar
  48. Wattisa, L., Standing, K., & Yerkes, M. A. (2013). Mothers and work-life balance: Exploring the contradictions and complexities involved in work-family negotiation. Community, Work and Family, 16(1), 1–19.Google Scholar
  49. Weil, D. N. (2013). Economic growth (3rd ed.). Boston: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  50. Yamamoto, I., & Matsuura, T. (2014). Effect of work-life balance practices on firm productivity: Evidence from Japanese firm-level panel data. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, 14(4), 1–32.Google Scholar
  51. Yanadori, Y., & Kato, T. (2009). Work and family practices in Japanese firms: Their scope, nature and impact on employee turnover. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(2), 439–456.Google Scholar
  52. Yu, S. (2014). Work-life balance: Work intensification and job insecurity as job stressors. Labour and Industry, 24(3), 203–214.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementTokyo University of ScienceTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations