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Why is Latin America one of the regions with the worst work-life balance?

A recent OECD report places countries like Mexico and Colombia very poorly on the list of states that allow their citizens to better balance personal life with workloads .

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LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué Latinoamérica es de las regiones con menor balance entre la vida y el trabajo?

According to a report from the Mayo Clinic, one of the largest clinics in the world, for everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic, cultural or political situation, it is very important to find a clear balance between work and private life. However, this is not an easy achievement. 

“There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were pretty clear. Nowadays, however, work is likely to invade your personal life (and maintaining a work-life balance is not exactly easy)”, explained this renowned hospital center in the United States.

In addition, achieving this goal today is much more difficult than it was 15 or 20 years ago, considering that the so-called telework has begun to invade people's lives, making it much more difficult to clearly divide time between work hours and personal hours. , because many times in the midst of personal life one or another matter of work sneaks in that "can't wait".

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) , in just three years the number of salaried people who work at home went from 3% in 2019 to 20% and in some cases to 30% today, with the covid pandemic -19 as the main culprit. 

Bearing this in mind, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) decided to ground the issue a little more, carrying out a worldwide investigation among all its member countries, which finally led to a ranking of the countries with the best balance life-work around the planet ; Unfortunately, Latin America did not perform well.

“Finding the right balance between work and daily life is a challenge that all workers face. Families are the most affected. The ability to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life is important for the well-being of all members of a family”, explains the OECD; however, this is a reality that very few can afford to live.

The report details as an important point to achieve this balance the number of working hours. It should be remembered that long working hours can not only affect mental and physical health, but also put personal and social relationships at risk, as well as the safety of a worker.

“In OECD countries, 10% of employees work 50 hours or more a week in paid work”, with two Latin American countries making up the Top 3 territories with the longest paid work hours.

"Mexico is the country with the highest percentage of people who work long hours for pay, with 27%, followed by Turkey with about 25% and Colombia, with almost 24% of its employees," indicates the OECD.

On the other hand, this organization also states that this point is directly related to the time that a person can invest in issues such as "personal care or leisure" ; that is, for rest and recreation time, either with family or friends.

On average, within OECD countries, workers spend 63% of the day on non-work activities, that is, about 15 hours a day away from the work environment. Of course, this is a schedule that decreases further down the table of the countries analyzed.

As happened in the first point, Latin America was again the least favored territory with Colombia at the bottom of the list, with an average of only 13.3 hours of leisure and personal care. The 'coffee growers' are joined by Costa Rica and Mexico, both with 13.5 hours, and Chile (14 hours).

Thus, after reviewing these and other factors such as health, the environment, labor compensation and the level of education, it was found that Latin America is the region with the least work-life balance in the world. On a score from 1 to 10, Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia have only 0.4, 0.6 and 1.3 points, respectively.

In addition, the situation does not improve much for the rest of the region, since the countries with the best position are Chile, with a balance of 4.8 points, and Brazil, with 6.2, well below the countries with the best score, such as Italy with 9.4 units, Denmark with 8.6 and Norway with 8.5.

You can also read:The best companies to work for in Latin America

How to solve this situation?

For experts, this type of report, rather than "demonize" one country or "elevate" another, is intended to be a mirror in which to see the mistakes that countries are falling into, and in this way make feedback that allows us to improve and evolve to a much more stable situation, in this case, in the balance between the time invested to work and another to be able to live.

Bearing this in mind, the OECD assures that national governments should be protagonists in this change, since "they can help resolve this issue by stimulating supportive and flexible labor practices that make it easier for parents to achieve a better balance between work and personal life.

The ILO holds a similar view, which also, in the specific case of teleworking, considers that Latin American countries should have better legislation to improve people's work-life relationship, especially now that a large part of the population develops their work activities in a place of rest as the home should be.

According to this organization, it is very rare in the region to find countries with clear regulations "on the right to disconnect or on the effective implementation of teleworking and execution procedures" , which of course can lead to a work overload that will end up affecting in the short and medium term the personal life of people.