In many ways, Europe is an experimental laboratory for workplace policies. What can we learn from Europe’s vast experience about what works -and what doesn’t- in workplace social benefits?
Today, Glassdoor Economic Research released a new study, conducted by Llewellyn Consulting, titled Which Countries in Europe Offer the Fairest Paid Leave and Unemployment Benefits?, which compares the generosity of workplace social policies throughout Europe, using the United States as a benchmark.
Measuring Workplace Benefits
The report provides an eye-opening tour of workplace benefits offered throughout Europe and in the U.S. by comparing the generosity of social benefits in six key areas: Unemployment benefits, paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave, general parental leave, paid holiday allowances and paid sick leave.
The figure below shows the key findings of the study. It’s a heat-map-style ranking of 14 European countries and the U.S. in terms of the generosity of workplace social benefits. Green denotes the most generous policies, while red denotes the least generous.
As is clear from the figure, workplace social programs in Europe are generally far more generous than in the U.S. Yet even within Europe benefits vary dramatically. Ireland, Switzerland, and the U.K. offer only modest mandated workplace benefits while Denmark, France, and Spain offer some of the most generous workplace social benefits in the world.
Workplace benefits like unemployment insurance and paid maternity leave can make today’s labor markets work better, taking the rough edges off the business cycle and improving health and welfare among young families.
Although mandated workplace benefits are popular with workers, they remain controversial. Workplace social welfare programs have three main goals: Help workers in need, preserve work incentives, and keep costs low. Economists teach these three goals are fundamentally in conflict—the so-called “iron triangle” of social welfare. More of one implies less of the others, forcing hard trade-offs for lawmakers.
Our mission at Glassdoor is to help people find a job and company that they love. By helping job seekers better understand the workplace social safety nets available to them throughout Europe, we hope this report contributes to that goal.
 This study is based only on federal-level laws in each country as reported by the OECD. Local- and state-level workplace regulations in these countries may offer more generous workplace benefits than indicated by federal laws alone.