UK Millennials Prioritize Work-Life Balance Over Career, Reveals Survey


The ethos of work holds varying degree of prominence among different global populations, with citizens of the United Kingdom rating it of less critical significance, a recent survey reveals. The most contemporary figures suggest that individuals today are more inclined towards the diminution of work’s importance than they were four decades ago.

An interesting disparity in this viewpoint is found within age demographics as revealed by the study carried out by the Policy Institute of King’s College London. Millennials exhibit a propensity for attributing diminished importance to work, in stark contrast to older generations who regard it with more gravity.

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A detailed consideration of the World Values Survey highlights that only 73% of UK individuals perceive work as “very important or somewhat important in their life”; an acknowledgment that is the most negligible among all the 24 countries under study. A comparably low attribution to work’s importance is reflected in Russian and Canadian demographics, eliciting identical responses from 74% and 75% of their respective populace.

Significantly, higher agreement for work’s importance is observed among other Western countries as compared to the UK; Italy and Spain host a 96% concordance, while a close 94% agreement is recorded in France. In contrast, countries further afield such as the Philippines and Indonesia score a remarkable 99%.

Interpreting this considerable divergence in perception, Prof Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, discerns a “persistent shift towards a more balanced work-life equilibrium” in the United Kingdom. The country has seen a progressive incline towards the principle that work need not be prioritized over leisure, and that hard work does not always translate to success or that an absence of work leads to lethargy.

This attitude has seen heightened acceptance over time. Over the decade-spanning 1981 to 2022, the segment of British nationals advocating for less emphasis on work ascended from 26% to 43%. This paradigm has also gained favorability on a broader scale among other Western countries. For instance, in Canada and Germany, the share of the population sharing this view escalated from 25% to 41% and 30% to 45% during a comparable era, respectively.

Simultaneously, the UK showcases one of the most lenient perspectives regarding non-working individuals seldom referring to them as “lazy”, with only Sweden reported to espouse a lesser likelihood for such labeling.

Generational discrepancies paint an intriguing picture with older demographics leaning towards the prioritization of work, despite work’s diminished role as they transition towards their twilight years and retirement. On the flip side, millennials exhibit heightened scepticism towards an excessive focus on work as their career trajectories unfurl.

According to survey data, over half of UK millennials profess the desirability of reduced career and work pressures. This sentiment is less echoed among older demographics with only a marginal majority of baby boomers in agreement. The demography referred to as baby boomers is defined as individuals aged between their late 50s to late 70s, while millennials encompass those aged from the mid-20s to early 40s.

Prof Duffy suggests several factors undergirding these generational deviations. As one grows older, a sense of nostalgia tends to become pronounced, and this may influence perceptions of younger generations’ dedication to work. Additionally, younger generations grappling with long-term economic instability and wage stagnation could delve into questioning the value of work.

However, Prof Duffy offers a reassuring note reporting a substantial shift in attitudes towards work-life balance primarily among younger generations across higher-income countries. Over the past 40 years, many major economies have reported a surge in those voicing the need for less work importance.

This transition in attitudes is best exemplified by Laura, who cut down her working hours to devote more time to her family in London. Her career switch to interior design has not only made her happier but helps reinforce her belief that while work might be stimulating, it does not constitute the nucleus of her life. Her top priority lies in spending quality time with family and friends.