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Work-Family Balance: An Analysis of European, Japanese, and U.S. Work-Time Policies

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In this briefing paper, we analyze the regulation of work time in 10 countries, including the most common measures taken to achieve three over-arching goals: first, to reduce the full-time work week to less than 40 hours; second, to guarantee workers an adequate number of paid days, annually, away from the workplace; and third, to raise the quality and availability of part-time work.

For U.S. workers, achieving the first two goals would, in effect, put a ceiling on annual hours worked, even among those with strong labor market ties. That would help to standardize the definition of full-time/full-year employment at a level that allows working parents to secure adequate time at home. Achieving the third goal would enable parents to choose part-time work, for short or long periods, without a disproportionate loss of compensation.

The 10 countries we analyze span the leading economies of the world--eight European Union (EU) countries, Japan, and the United States. We focus on these countries because there is extensive variation among them in both work time policies and in work-time outcomes--such as annual and weekly hours actually worked, and the availability and quality of part-time work.