Brits Don’t Like Working Hard, Says New Survey

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Written By Mostafa Moradi

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Brits are less likely to treat their work as the most important aspect of their lives – although there are signs younger workers may change this attitude.

Three out of four workers stated they were among the least likely to say work should come first, even if this means having less leisure time.

The attitude is nothing new – British workers have told researchers the same thing for the past 30 years, says the World Value Survey (WVS).

But there are signs of change. Younger workers, such as Gen X, Gen Z and Millenials, view work as playing a more important role in their lives. However, any interest in work is fast dropping for Baby Boomers and those born pre-World War II.

And the importance of work seems gender-specific, with British men (28 per cent) more likely to poorly rate their jobs than women (16 per cent).

How Brits Rate The Importance Of Work

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Source: World Values Survey

Countries Where Work Is A Priority

Two nations have a poorer view of work than Britain -Canada and Russia.

Countries with similar economies to Britain, like France and Spain, are twice as likely to say work comes first, while others, such as Norway and Italy, are even more likely to put their jobs first.

Top of the rating table are The Philippines and Indonesia, fast-growing economies where a work ethic is considered extremely important.

RankCountryWork importance rating
1Philippines99%
2Indonesia99%
3Nigeria97%
4Iran96%
5Brazil96%
6Italy96%
7Morocco96%
8Spain96%
9Sweden94%
10France94%
11Poland94%
12Norway92%
13Mexico92%
14Greece90%
15China89%
16Egypt87%
17South Korea86%
18Germany84%
19Australia83%
20Japan81%
21USA80%
22Canada75%
23Russia74%
24UK73%
Source: World Values Survey

Work And Play

Just over one in five Brits say work should always come first – a trend which has persisted for 40 years.

Brits are also vocal in their opinion that leisure is important.

The UK is not alone in taking this view. Around half of the 24 countries surveyed express the same idea.

RankCountryLeisure importance rating
1Sweden96%
2Norway96%
3Canada95%
4Poland94%
5UK93%
6Nigeria93%
7Australia93%
8South Korea92%
9Iran92%
10Germany92%
11Spain91%
12Japan91%
13Italy91%
14USA89%
15Greece89%
16France86%
17Mexico85%
18Brazil85%
19Russia82%
20Morocco79%
21Indonesia77%
22China71%
23Philippines61%
24Egypt55%
Source: World Values Survey

Are Brits Lazy At Work?

Brits have a negative view of people who don’t work. About 40 per cent think not working makes people lazy – a level of opinion that has barely changed in 40 years.

Only Swedes are more likely to hold this view than Brits.

Many nationalities believe working hard can bring a better life. Notably, the US is among the leaders with this goal.

The American Dream is an ideal where equal opportunity and hard work can lead to riches, which is the aspiration of many.

Below 11th ranked Britain come to Russia, Canada, Japan, Germany, Greece and South Korea.

Egypt leads the rankings, where 61 per cent trust hard work is rewarded — China and the USA rank next.

South Korea props up the rankings, with only 16 per cent feeling hard work is worth the reward.

Professor Bobby Duffy, the director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London and principal investigator in the study, said millennials “are much more sceptical about prioritising work as they’ve made their way through their career” due to “the long-term economic and wage stagnation that will lead younger generations to question the value of work.

“It’s true that the UK is not in a good place compared with other countries on both average income levels and inequality in income.

“Both are likely important in perceptions of whether work is worth it. When absolute incomes are stuck, and people feel the dice are loaded against them while others get ahead, even if they work hard, the motivation to work will be affected.”

Brits and Work FAQ

What is the World Values Survey?

The World Values Survey covers 24 countries comprising around half the world’s population. The survey started in 1981 and looks at worldwide social, political, economic, religious and cultural values worldwide.

Is it better to live to work?

If you focus on living to work, you will probably advance as a professional in your chosen career. This means you enjoy what you do and could become self-employed or an entrepreneur.

What is work/life balance?

A healthy work/life balance means managing your time and energy to meet personal and work commitments without stress.

Does working from home improve work/life balance?

The jury’s out on how working from home affects the work/life balance. A 2020 study by Public Health Wales found remote working can improve the work/life balance, while some people’s mental health deteriorated due to isolation and stress.

Can I work remotely as an expat?

Absolutely. Thousands of expats are classed as ‘digital nomads’. Which means they live in one country while working in another.

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