One third of full-time workers globally say managing work-life has become more difficult – younger generations and parents hit hardest

New York, 5 May 2015

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EY released new research today that shows one third of full-time workers say that managing work-life has become more difficult in the last five years. Younger generations and parents are harder hit than others, plus workers in certain countries.

  • New global survey finds top drivers of work-life challenges are stagnant salaries and rising expenses, increasing hours, and more responsibilities at work and at home
  • Around the world, approximately half of managers work more than 40 hours a week and four in 10 say their hours have increased in the past five years, millennials’ and parents’ hours climb the most
  • US millennials are moving into management, while also becoming parents and working more hours, creating the “perfect storm” for younger generations over the last five years
  • US men are more likely than women to change jobs or give up a promotion for work-life management
  • Globally parents are more likely to quit over lack of opportunities for advancement than non-parents
  • Nearly one in six US millennials say they have suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule and 38% would “move to another country with better parental leave benefits”

The online survey of close to 9,700 full-time workers at companies of varying sizes in eight countries explored a wide variety of areas including: younger generations moving into management, work-life and economic challenges, workplace flexibility around the globe, plus what employees seek in a job and why they quit. The survey, conducted in the US, Germany, Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, India and the UK, also includes an analysis of key findings by geography, generation, gender, parental status and managers versus non-managers.

The survey is the second EY has undertaken on generational issues in the workplace. In 2013, EY explored the interplay between generations in the workforce and how companies could maximize performance by actively managing the generational mix. This time, EY wanted to delve into work-life issues, particularly for millennials, to inform companies of the external factors that influence the decisions, ambitions and priorities of full-time workers globally.

In addition to international findings for the EY Global Generations research in these eight countries, the insights include further questions asked only of the 1,200 full-time US workers surveyed such as: major changes they have made, or would be willing to make, to better manage work-life; topics tied to paid parental leave; and couples’ work schedules by generation.

One key area of focus for the survey globally and in the US is millennials. Millennial parents who are full-time employees in the US are facing increased responsibilities at work and home, such as moving into management and having children before age 30. They are increasing their work hours after becoming parents more than older generations and so are their partners/spouses. They are seeing more of a backlash in working flexibly than older generations. One striking finding, likely compounded by the lack of a US paid parental leave policy, is that 38% of millennials said they would “move to another country with better parental leave benefits.”

“As management shifts to younger generations and more women are in the workforce, we wanted to get a pulse on the challenges employees at different companies face by country, generation and more. We were especially interested in millennials, who are facing a perfect storm of increased responsibilities by moving into management and becoming parents simultaneously,” said Karyn Twaronite, who recently took on a new appointment as EY Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer. “Knowing that millennials and parents are under increasing pressure, we wanted to understand what employees seek in a job and why they quit, why they stay and how this differs by generation.”

Following are the top findings:

1. Managing work-life is getting harder

Among the key findings, the top reason one-third of full-time employees globally say it has gotten more difficult to manage work/family in the last five years is that “my salary has not increased much, but my expenses have,” which was about tied with “my responsibilities at work have increased.” The other top 5 reasons include increased responsibility at home, working longer hours and having children.

  • Full-time employees in Germany and Japan are the most likely to indicate that it has gotten tougher to manage work-life, but about one in four US workers report this, too.
  • Illustrating the tension of dual-priorities for younger generations, about half of millennials and Gen X cited increased responsibilities at work as a leading cause, coupled with more than two in five citing increased responsibilities at home.
  • Countries where parents found it most difficult to manage work-life versus non-parents were Germany, the UK, India and the US.
  • Approximately half (46%) of managers, globally, are working more than 40 hour weeks and four in 10 say their hours have increased over the past five years.
  • Globally, younger generations are seeing their hours increase more in the last five years at a time when many are moving into management and starting families. (47% of millennial managers reported an increase in hours versus 38% for Gen X and 28% for Boomers.)
  • Of managers, full-time working parents (41%) have seen their hours increase more in the last five years than non-parents (37%).

2. Top reasons to quit: minimal wage growth, lack of advancement, excessive overtime

For companies looking to retain employees as the economy improves -- and as more millennials move into management and become parents -- EY’s global research looked at the leading reasons full-time workers quit. The top five reasons were: minimal wage growth, lack of opportunity to advance, excessive overtime hours, a work environment that does not encourage teamwork and a boss that doesn’t allow you to work flexibly.

  • Other leading factors in the top 10 were tied to flexibility and included a “flexibility stigma” or perception that people who work flexibly or take leave will suffer career consequences, lack of workplace flexibility altogether, including an option to telecommute, and too much overnight travel.
  • Parents are more likely than non-parents to mention a lack of opportunity to advance as a reason to quit, demonstrating continued career ambition after having children.

3. What do workers around the world want in a job?

After competitive pay and benefits, the top five things employees say are very important in a potential job are: “being able to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion” which was tied at 74% with “working with colleagues, including my boss, who support my efforts to work flexibly.” Other flex perks full-time employees seek are: the ability to work flexibly informally when needed, receiving paid parental leave and not working excessive overtime.

  • Millennials, globally, are more likely than other generations to say it is important to receive paid parental leave onsite or subsidized child care and telecommuting 1-2 days a week.
  • Interestingly, two-thirds of full-time employees would prefer being able to relocate closer to family over reducing overnight business travel, receiving onsite or subsidized childcare, an ability shut off emails and calls when needed, and telecommuting.

4. Economy’s impact on marriage, work, education and family planning

The economy played a significant role in the challenges full-time workers face and impacted their lives in a wide variety of ways in the last five years.

  • More than one in five employees encouraged their spouse or partner to return to work and a quarter encouraged their spouse/partner not to quit or reduce hours to better manage work-life.
  • Approximately 23% of workers decided not to have more children and one in five delayed having more kids.
  • Marriages were also impacted. The economy sparked nearly one in six full time workers to get divorced or separated and almost a sixth to delay getting a divorce.
  • About one in five full-time workers were forced to discontinue or delay higher education or said their ability to help pay for their children’s education was reduced.

US Spotlight

5. US millennials face a perfect storm, moving into management and having children

In the US, our research shows that 25-29 is the most common age to become a manager and have/adopt a child, resulting in more responsibility both at work and home for millennials.

Distinguishing US millennials from other generations, many find they are working more hours after having a child and the same is true of their spouse or partner. Millennials are also more likely than other generations to have a spouse working at least full-time and are less likely than other generations to take a career break when they had children.

  • More than one in four millennials (26%) said they are working more after having a child versus 13% for Gen X and 16% for Boomers. In addition, the partner/spouse of millennials was also more likely to have increased the amount of time they work.
  • While half of women full-time workers in the US of all generations took a career break (50%), almost a quarter of men (22%) did, too.
  • Adding to the demands of managing work-life, parents (including millennial parents) are twice as likely to travel for business as non-parents.

6. US Millennials would leave for better benefits; face more backlash for working flexibly

EY’s research found that about one in 10 US workers say they have “suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule” and the rate is even higher for millennials, or nearly one in six. Perhaps connected to these policies, 38% of millennials would "move to another country with better parental leave benefits."

  • Nearly two-thirds of US full-time employees who are parents did not take paid parental leave in the US and over three quarters of women indicate their spouse/partner is not eligible for paid parental leave.
  • Millennials (48%) who are parents are much more likely to take paid parental leave compared to parents of older generations, when they had children (Gen X 35% and Boomers 24%).
  • Across the board, millennials highly value increased flexibility and paid parental leave and say they would be more likely to recommend that company to others, be more engaged, less likely to quit, more likely to join the company and work longer hours if they were offered.

7. US men and millennials are more likely to make sacrifices to manage work-life

Workers in the US are willing to make job and career changes to better manage work-life integration, and 54% of full-time employees have – or would be willing to – give up an opportunity for a promotion. Interestingly, of those surveyed, millennials and men are most likely to make these sacrifices.

  • US Millennials are the most likely generation to say they would change jobs or careers, give up an opportunity for a promotion, “move my family to another location to better manage work/family”, move closer to family and to “take a pay cut to have flexibility.”
  • Surprisingly, men are more willing to make sacrifices to better manage work and family than women. Men are more likely to have changed jobs or careers, or said they would be willing to do so, than women. They are also more willing to give up a promotion, “move my family to another location to better manage work/family,” move to be closer to family, and take a pay cut.

To learn more, visit, or join the conversation on social media via the hashtag #GenerationGo.


Full Methodology

This survey was conducted online, by Harris Poll on behalf of EY, within the United States between November 20, 2014 - January 14, 2015 among 9699 adults aged 18-67 who are full-time employed across a variety of companies in the U.S., U.K., India, Japan, China, Germany, Mexico and Brazil. Roughly 1200 each were surveyed in US (n=1208), UK (n=1202), Germany (n=1209), India (n=1219), Brazil (n=1208), Mexico (n=1206), Japan (n=1228), and China (n=1219). All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult populations in each country. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Notes to editors

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