WHEN I was young, I once had a paper round. It wasn’t much. I got maybe a few pounds a week from it – and what little money I did earn never really made up for the hassle of collecting newspapers from a local shop that seemed to set its opening hours on a total whim.

From there, I worked in taxi dispatch, on call through the night to get people home despite being just out of high school myself.

I’ve worked at an indoor mini-golf, built inside a great windowless building that meant a long day shift during the winter would mean a day passing without the sight of sunlight.

Work has been a constant presence in my life for as long as I can remember,and I say all this only to make it clear that I have always had what I’m sure would be described as a “good work ethic”.

Like most other Millennials, I was raised with the idea that hard work and an openness to learn would naturally lead to better things – and like most other Millennials, the past two decades has taught me that was all utter bullshit.

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New research has revealed that people in the UK are now among the most likely to view work as something that should not be our main priority in life. Increasingly, the belief that hard work leads to success and reward is becoming far less mainstream.

But it’s in digging into the generational data that the real story lies.

For Boomers and the pre-war generation, it still appears to be the majority position that placing less importance on work would be a bad thing – but for Millennials, the opposite is true. In 2009, 41% of Millennials felt that work should come first. By 2022 this had fallen to just 14%.

It should be clear why.

Two decades of life experience has shown us that hard work means almost nothing in terms of career progression now. The concept of a “job for life” is as alien to us as the prospect of home ownership without external help.

Margaret Thatcher may have kickstarted the fastest growth of wealth inequality in British history but it is the austerity programmes that followed under successive Conservative governments that have been key to continuing the trend of funnelling more and more wealth out of the hands of the working class and up to the 1%.

With advancing technology, and global business always on the hunt for new means of drastically cutting workforces for the benefit of their bottom line, there is a constant, unsettling sense of a job market getting smaller and smaller with no job safe from redundancy.

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All of which is to say that, for the past 20 years, the Millennial workforce has lived under the worst excesses of capitalism. How could its endless need for growth lead us to any other conclusion than this: that we have been duped; that those late nights and long hours benefit no-one but the bosses.

What even is a career now?

It’s certainly not the opportunity to advance through the ranks of a company on merit as it once was.

Now it’s flitting between jobs and workplaces in the hope that the next one will pay a little more, be a little more secure, will have something better to offer, better than a zero-hours contract and a sign politely reminding the public not to abuse the staff.

Or better yet, why not just work for free? How about an unpaid internship to get your foot in the door? At least that acknowledges from the get-go that the moment you step into that workplace, you will be exploited and undervalued. But at least it’s going to look grrrreat on your CV.

We were not prepared for the various indignities of the modern workplace – the estrangement from the self that Karl Marx described in the early 1900s, where we as individuals are reduced to non-autonomous economic entities in service to the goals of the bourgeoisie.

I don’t believe it to be any co-incidence that the rise in excessive and deliberate wealth inequality runs parallel to the decline of the trade unions – a trend that finally feels to be reversing.

But what victories there have been for the labour movement are not enough to inadvertently mask the gross and excessive extraction of wealth that strips national infrastructure while bills spiral higher and companies post record profits that will never reach the hands of those who made them.

The myth of “hard work” is crumbling faster than an English primary school.

Truly, how deeply must we have drunk of the capitalist Kool-Aid to have even entertained the notion that our lives and loves – the things that make this brief time we have worthwhile – should have ever come second to work in service to the rich.