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Researchers from the Vienna-based Institute for Comparative Survey Research surveyed 86,000 people from 60 countries worldwide during the period from 2010 to 2014 to gain insight into the relative importance of a select set of values. These values were: family, friends, leisure time, politics, religion, and work.

  • Participants of the World Value Survey (WVS) were asked to define the importance of each value, with ranking options of very important, rather important, not very important and not at all important.
  • The combined share of positive responses - very important and rather important - for a single country provides a useful measure to compare the relative importance of specific values among countries worldwide. These results are shown in the visualizations below.

Test yourself

Following are some of the interesting findings from the most recent survey responses:

  • On average, values rank in the following order from most to least important: family, work, friends, leisure time, religion and politics.
  • For all but five countries surveyed, family was the highest ranked value. Among countries where family was not ranked first, the Netherlands was the only country where respondents ranked friends as the highest priority, while Ghana was the only country where  respondents ranked work above all else. The three remaining countries - the Arabic countries of Algeria, Egypt, and Qatar - religion was ranked most important. In other Middle-Eastern Arabic and Islamic countries, like Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, and Yemen, religion was ranked second only to family.
  • In sharp contrast to family, politics was nearly universally the least important value among respondents from the 60 countries. Bahrain respondents placed the highest relative importance on politics among all countries, ranking politics above work and leisure but below family, religion, and friends.
  • In three-fourths of the countries surveyed, work ranked more important than leisure. This contradicts economic theory, according to which leisure is a "good" while work is a “bad”. Increased consumption of leisure should increase an individual's level of satisfaction while work should decrease levels of utility. Interstate differences in the importance of work, however, did emerge. Respondents from high-income developed countries - where this economic theory originates - valued leisure more than work. At the same time, respondants from relatively poor countries - like Ghana, where the GDP per capita is 40 times less than that of the US - considered work to be of higher importance than leisure.
  • Respondents from 60 percent of the countries ranked friends as more important than work. But, in only 53 percent of countries did friends outrank religion.
  • Analysis of the WVS survey data also shows that following an increase in standards of living countries tend to move from traditional to secular-rational values and from survival to self-expression values.

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