More workers in the UK say they wouldn’t work at all if money was no object than any comparable workforce in the world. In an international poll, commissioned by recruiter Randstad UK, 60 per cent of workers in the UK said they would choose not to work if money was no object. This was higher than workers in 20 of the UK’s European peers — including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, Poland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Romania, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Luxembourg — as well as the UK’s closest international competitors.

The poll surveyed 27,250 workers in total, from 27 different countries — including Anglopsphere peers such as Canada, Australia, the USA, and New Zealand, as well as global powerhouses such as China and Japan. While 60 per cent of workers in the UK agreed that “If money was no object, I would choose not to work at all,” the international average, 47 per cent, was far lower. Switzerland, Austria, and Romania had the fewest workers who would quit with 38, 37, and 36 per cent respectively.

Victoria Short, chief executive of Randstad UK, said: “Although there might be very good reasons why people are not currently participating in the workforce — the rising cost of childcare; the need to care for elderly relatives; long-term health conditions; extending their time at university — this research poses a hypothetical question unconstrained by real-world considerations. The answer suggests economic inactivity is more popular here than in other countries. Willingness to participate in the workforce appears to be a peculiarly British problem.

“This could be because the UK has such stressful working conditions that the average employee can only dream of getting away from — that employers in the UK aren’t giving workers what they want or need. “Treating your staff right is the way to success. That means more flexible, remote and part-time options, improving workplace culture, and doing more to ensure people don’t burn-out from stress and unrealistic workloads.”

According to the labour market statistics from the Office for National Statistics, the rate of economic inactivity for September to November 2022 decreased by 0.1 percentage points on the quarter to 21.5 per cent in September to November 2022, driven by people aged 16 to 24 years and those aged 50 to 64 years. The main reasons for inactivity included studying, long-term sickness, and retirement.

Victoria Short said: “The apparent buoyancy of the jobs’ market overall continues to mask some concerning trends; a persistent workforce shortage and the exodus of workers is the biggest domestic drag on the economy.” Randstad’s research highlighted some other concerning trends. When asked “How do you feel about your employer and your likelihood to stay with them?” one in seven (15 per cent) of workers in the UK said they were not committed to their employer. One in nine (11 per cent) said work was not important in their life. And one in eight (12 per cent) reported that their job did not give them a sense of purpose When asked, “In an ideal world, at what age would you retire?”, the average answer was 56. However, when asked “When do you think you will be able to retire?” on average, workers thought 63.

Victoria Short said: “With the state pension age rising, with retirement being delayed, and unretirement looming, finding a fulfilling job has never been more important. There’s no point being miserable and just hanging in there. People need to get out there and find work that feels good”.