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New survey shows people in the UK value work less compared to past decades

Young professionals

People in the UK are less likely to say work is the most important aspect of their lives, a new survey finds.

The study finds people believe it's a good thing to care less about work than they did 40 years ago.

However, this perspective varies depending on age, the study by King's College London's Policy Institute found.

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Millennials, those aged between mid-20s and early 40s, are more likely to view work as less crucial than older generations. 

This generational divide reflects a broader societal shift toward less emphasis on work and more on personal life and leisure.

According to the World Values Survey, only 73 percent UK people now consider work "very or rather important in their life."

Among 24 countries surveyed, this is the lowest percentage.

In contrast, countries such as Italy, Spain, the Philippines, and Indonesia reported much higher percentages, indicating a stronger emphasis on work.

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Professor Bobby Duffy, the director of the Policy Institute at King's College London, suggests that this shift indicates a "steady drift towards a greater focus on getting work-life balance right" in the UK.

He added: "People [are] less likely to think work should be prioritised over spare time, that hard work leads to success, or that not working makes people lazy."

Over the years, the percentage of Brits who believe in placing less importance on work has steadily risen.

It rose from 26 percent in 1981 to 43 percent in 2022. 

There're similar trends in other Western countries, such as Canada and Germany, reflecting changing attitudes toward work.

The survey shows people in the UK have a favourable view of people who don't work.

But only Sweden is less likely to label non-working people as "lazy." 

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There is also an increasing sense of duty toward society associated with work among Britons. 

This suggests a nuanced view of work that varies among different age groups.

Generational differences are stark, with older generations prioritizing work even as they approach retirement.

However, millennials are increasingly skeptical about the importance of work in their lives. 

Over half of UK millennials believe that a reduced emphasis on career and work would be beneficial.

It's compared to just over a third of baby boomers.

Professor Duffy attributes these generational shifts to nostalgia as people age, perceptions of younger generations' commitment to work, and economic stagnation. 

However, he notes that these changing attitudes are not unique to the UK and are part of a broader trend in many high-income countries.

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