Live to work, or work to live? This is the question on the minds of many working people at a time when the pandemic has profoundly changed our relationship with work.
But a new survey shows that workers have different feelings on the matter, depending on where they live.
The World Values Survey was conducted among workers in 24 countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Egypt and South Korea. It reports that those in the Philippines are the most likely to say that work is “rather or very” important in their lives, followed by workers in Indonesia, Nigeria and Iran.
Four European countries feature in the top 10 countries where work is recognised as an important part of life: Italy (no. 6), Spain (no. 8), Sweden (no. 9), and France (no. 10).
Nine out of 10 people living in these countries consider their career a priority. However, the same cannot be said of workers in Russia, Canada and the United States, since 80% or less of them say that their professional life is “rather or very” important to them.
At the bottom of the table come people from the UK. British workers are less inclined than those in all the other countries surveyed to attach importance to their jobs.
What’s more, they are among the least supportive of the idea that work should always come first: only 22% agree that work should take priority, even if it means having to give up some leisure time.
Workers in Australia, Canada and Japan see things the same way the majority of British workers do, and generally want to maintain a balance between their professional and personal lives.
Workers in China are, for their part, among those that most value work, along with those in Egypt and Nigeria. This might not be surprising, given that China is known for its culture of hard work and “996” weeks – being in the office from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.
But on a global scale, what role does work play? Is it a lever for leading a better life? Here again, these questions divide.
Workers in Egypt, China and the US tend to believe that hard work generally leads to a better quality of life, unlike those in Greece and Korea. While most Brazilian workers support hard work, 27% believe that success is, above all, a matter of “luck and connections” – an opinion shared by 26% of Nigerian workers.
This survey suggests that many working people feel work takes up too much space in their lives, even though they continue to attach great importance to it. It is, therefore, important for companies to acknowledge this if they wish to retain their talent.