This dissertation analysed the subjective importance of work. The first part contains an overview of theories on work orientation. When comparing macro-conditions for work in 23 countries, international differences in and types of labour market systems, qualification systems, household and family systems, gender patterns of employment, and roles of the state, e.g. types of welfare states, were pointed out. This comparison is supplemented by corresponding indicators, particularly for labour markets.Data derived from repeated surveys on work orientation (ISSP / International Social Survey Programme, 1989, 1997 and 2005) and from national labour market indicators was drawn on to delineate differences and movements of work orientations in 23 countries. More elaborate multivariate research was carried out for seven of these countries, namely Germany, Austria, Hungary, Norway, Spain, the USA and Japan. The four main aspects examined were 1) Non-financial Employment Commitment (?centrality?; the interviewees would enjoy having a paid job even if they did not need the money), 2) Subjective Job Performance, 3) Organizational Commitment (identification with a company) and 4) subjective importance of different job characteristics.In all years and in all countries, the subjective importance of job security, high income and interesting work was high. It was also important that one?s job was useful to society. There was no evidence that work had lost its subjective importance at all. Subjective Job Performance and Organizational Commitment were high. Non-financial Employment Commitment was highest in Norway, lowest in Spain. It was higher for women than for men and it was higher for more highly educated people. In order to gain a better life-course perspective on work orientations, it is recommended that panel studies are carried out and that quantitative data, e.g. from ISSP, is triangulated with findings from qualitative interviews about work orientations.