So in terms of quality of life, just how rich are you? What is your real net worth, your wealth, and not simply in money? How hard do you have to work to satisfy your need for what you want out of life? Perhaps as important – how many years are you likely to live for, to enjoy your hard-earned riches?
Firstly, how is quality of life assessed, and secondly, how many hours a year do you need to work to earn this standard of living? A third – but immeasurable – factor could be priorities in what any person regards as important to his/her quality of life; perhaps you are happy to have little disposable income left after paying essential expenses, if it means working fewer hours but spending more time with family and friends. Or perhaps you are asset rich but time poor? For example, Americans are generally regarded as ‘rich’, but only five countries’ populations work longer hours, and the USA’s standard of living is only in the middle of the table. So maybe you will live a little longer, because you haven’t needed to work too hard.
Quality of Life Index is estimated by the OECD using a formula which includes purchasing power, health care, climate and safety indexes – the higher the better – and house price to income ratio, consumer price, pollution and traffic commute time indexes, the lower the better, all given weightings according to assumed importance.
Hours worked on average per year is the other side of the coin – a person may well have a relatively high income coupled with low or moderate expenses, but how much time is left for the person to enjoy his or her relative wealth? In the longer term, years of life expectancy depend on many factors, the most influential being diet and availability of medical care, except of course the negative effects of protracted conflict in which the country may be directly involved, perhaps partly borne out by Switzerland topping the list for quality of life – it managed to remain neutral during the two World Wars.
Efficiency would appear to be the key – that is, if the number of hours worked is relatively low, but quality of life is assessed as high, then in these times of increasing ‘free trade’ around the world, the country must be efficient otherwise it could not compete very well, with obvious consequences. This hypothesis may be born out by comparing the figures for Germany and Greece – the Germans would appear to justify their reputation for efficiency, and the Greeks for inefficiency, given that the latter spend 50% more time in working hours but manage to produce a score for quality of life 20% lower than the Germans. Only Mexico and South Korea of OECD countries work longer hours.
In the top 10 countries for quality of life, Denmark, The Netherlands and Norway also score well, and further down the table, French workers spend less than 1500 hours at work, so are apparently an example of being satisfied with a slightly lower standard of living. Switzerland would also appear to maintain a reasonable balance between work and play. Japanese live the longest, by some margin even over the Swiss, but are in the bottom half of the table in quality of life and hours worked – their diet is recognised as very healthy, however.
Following is a list of the top 25 countries, for which data is available through the OECD; the first column is a score which identifies the relative quality of life; the second column is the average number of hours worked per year by the population; thirdly, life expectancy should reflect the other two, and although the spread of years is relatively narrow, with just a couple of exceptions, Denmark and Germany surprise a little by their ranking – maybe a little too much beer and a few too many dumplings!? However, the bottom three in each criteria, Belgium, South Korea and Croatia respectively, are all in the bottom six in all criteria.
worked per year