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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/06/2001   
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Contents >> Work >> Unpaid Work: Time spent on unpaid household work

Unpaid Work: Time spent on unpaid household work

In 1997, 91% of Australians performed some form of unpaid household work each day. Of those who did, it consumed almost a third of women’s waking hours and a fifth of men’s.

Household work is a major contributor to household and family functioning, providing essential services to people inside a household which would otherwise have to be paid for. Tasks reflect every day living requirements, such as cooking and cleaning, shopping for food and caring for children.


Time spent on unpaid household work
Most of the data in this article are drawn from the ABS 1997 Time Use Survey which collected information about the time people spent on unpaid household work and other activities. People aged 15 years and over participating in the survey kept a diary record of the activities they undertook over two specified days of the survey reference period.

In this article, unpaid household work comprises domestic, child care and purchasing activities (for which no money is exchanged). Tasks undertaken by individuals under these categories include cooking, cleaning, home and car maintenance, home management (i.e. paying bills and organising budgets), caring for children and shopping.

A primary activity is the main activity a person performs at a given time (other activities may occur simultaneously). This article refers only to primary activities unless otherwise stated.


Time spent on unpaid household work
In 1997, around 91% of Australians spent time performing some form of household work. However, the amount of time people spent on this work often varied depending on a number of factors, including age, living arrangements and labour force status.

More women than men performed household work in 1997 (96% compared with 85%), also spending more time on these activities than men (287 minutes per day compared with 170 minutes per day). Consequently, household work consumed almost one third of women’s waking hours and one fifth
of men’s.

Between 1992 and 1997, the amount of household work performed by Australians varied little, with the average time spent decreasing by six minutes from 239 to 233 minutes per day respectively. Levels of participation remained stable over the period.

PARTICIPATION IN UNPAID HOUSEHOLD WORK, 1997

Type of household work
Males
Females
Persons

Participation rates
%
%
%
Domestic
76
93
84
    Indoor activities
64
90
77
    Outdoor activities
39
40
40
Child care
19
31
25
Purchasing
45
58
52
Total
85
96
91

Average time spent by participants
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day

Domestic
124
191
161
    Indoor activities
66
155
119
    Outdoor activities
104
61
82
Child care
86
147
124
Purchasing
77
92
86
Total
170
287
233

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


In 1997, women spent an average of 191 minutes per day on domestic activities, compared with men who spent an average of 124 minutes. To a large extent, this reflects traditional roles of men and women in relation to housework. In keeping with this, women who participated in domestic activities in 1997 spent more time than men on tasks which are usually performed indoors, such as cooking or cleaning (155 minutes per day compared with 66 minutes per day). However, women spent less time than men on tasks which are usually performed outdoors, such as grounds and animal care or home maintenance (61 minutes per day compared with 104 minutes).

Not all Australian households contain dependent children. Reflecting this, 25% of people spent time caring for children on an unpaid basis on a given day. Around 31% of women and 19% of men participated in child care, spending an average of 147 and 86 minutes per day on this activity, respectively. Women performed 74% of all child care.

People often spend time caring for children while doing other things. As a result, much of the time people devote to child care is not measured as a primary activity. When all child care activities were considered (regardless of whether they were primary or simultaneous activities), the time people spent on child care was around seven hours per day.

Purchasing activities occupied an average of 86 minutes of people’s time on a given day in 1997. Women spent around 92 minutes and men spent 77 minutes per day on these activities. Levels of participation of women and men were more similar for purchasing activities (58% and 45% respectively) than for other household work.

AVERAGE TIME SPENT BY PEOPLE WHO PERFORMED UNPAID HOUSEHOLD WORK, 1997

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


Age
The type of household work that people perform and the time they commit to these activities varies with age. In 1997, the proportion of people spending time on domestic activities ranged from 68% of people aged 15-24 years to 94% of people aged 65 years and over. Women performed two thirds of all domestic activities.

Women aged between 35 and 44 years performed the greatest proportion of domestic activities of all people (15%), while men in this age group undertook 7% of these activities. The shares of domestic activities undertaken by men and women aged 55 years and over were more even than for younger age groups, although women still undertook a larger proportion of domestic activities than men (9% and 6% for women and men aged 55 to 64 years respectively). This may be due to a combination of household size getting smaller as children leave the family home and people (more commonly men) retiring from work, providing the opportunity for domestic duties to be shared more equally between men and women. It may also reflect greater proportions of people living alone in this age group and doing their own housework.

In 1997, people aged between 25 and 44 years performed 82% of all child care. Of this, women performed three quarters. This disparity reflects the number of couples with children where the male partner spent a large amount of time at work while his female partner took on a greater share of child care. The proportion of child care being performed decreased from the age of 45 years, reflecting the fact that children require less care from their parents as they grow older.



PROPORTION OF TOTAL TIME SPENT
ON DOMESTIC ACTIVITIES, 1997
PROPORTION OF TOTAL TIME SPENT
ON CHILD CARE ACTIVITIES, 1997
Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.



Living arrangements
In 1997, most adults spent time on unpaid household work regardless of who they lived with. However, the time people spent on these activities varied considerably depending on household composition.

Parents spent the most time on household work, partly because child care is a component of household work, but also because children tend to generate a larger amount of other household work. In 1997, women with children spent the most time of all people on household work (up to 401 minutes per day for women in a couple with dependent children).

Domestic activities accounted for the largest proportion of household work (an average of 191 minutes per day devoted to these activities by women and an average of 124 minutes by men). While the majority of women (93%) performed some form of domestic activity throughout their day regardless of who they lived with, men were more likely to perform domestic activities if they were not living with a partner than if they were. For example, 92% of lone fathers performed domestic activities compared with around 78% of partnered men with children. In contrast, women were most likely to perform domestic activities if they were a partner in a couple with children (98% for those with dependent children). This partly reflects that in many families, female partners tend to take on a greater share of household work than male partners, who are more likely to be employed full-time (see Australian Social Trends, 2001, Trends in employment population ratios).

PARTICIPATION IN UNPAID HOUSEHOLD ACTIVITIES AND SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS, 1997

Participation rates
Average time spent by participants


Domestic
Child care
Purchasing
Total
Domestic
Child care
Purchasing
Total
Living arrangements
%
%
%
%
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day

Males
    Partner in a couple without children
83
4
48
89
142
80
84
180
    Partner in a couple with dependent children
78
54
44
90
120
86
73
192
    Partner in a couple with non-dependant children
80
3
46
87
148
49
96
189
    Lone parent
92
18
52
94
160
96
75
217
    Lone person
90
5
56
94
138
116
76
183
Females
    Partner in a couple without children
96
6
56
98
204
75
92
257
    Partner in a couple with dependent children
98
76
65
100
223
159
93
401
    Partner in a couple with non-dependant children
96
8
60
97
250
80
112
323
    Lone parent
96
52
58
98
194
147
90
322
    Lone person
96
6
59
98
171
72
90
225

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


Labour force status
For many people, available time must be shared between, among other things, paid and unpaid work. If an individual spends a large proportion of their day on paid labour force activities, household work may need to be performed by someone else in the household or by someone outside the household (often in exchange for payment). Alternatively, less time may be spent on these activities.

In 1997, people who were employed spent on average over an hour less per day on unpaid household work than people who were not employed (200 minutes compared with 264 minutes). The time spent on household work varied between female and male participants and whether they worked full-time or part-time.

The greater time spent on household work by women than men is not solely a reflection of the fact that women are less likely to be employed full-time. When comparing the time spent on household work by women and men employed full-time, women were more likely than men to participate in unpaid household work (95% compared with 84%) and to spend more time on this work (211 minutes and 153 minutes respectively). In addition, while there was a large difference between the time spent on household work by women employed full-time and those employed part-time, there was little difference in the time spent on this work between men employed full-time and part-time. Women employed part-time spent an average of 299 minutes per day on household work compared with 211 minutes by women employed full-time. In comparison, men who worked part-time spent virtually the same amount of time on household work as men who worked full-time (157 compared with 153 minutes per day). This reflects the fact that men and women who work part-time often do so at different stages in their lives, and therefore have different responsibilities regarding household work. For example, men are more likely to work part-time either when they are younger and studying, or when they are close to retirement and are less likely to have young children. Women are also likely to work part-time when they are studying, but are more likely than men to work part-time when they have young children and are therefore living in a household requiring more household work to be performed.

AVERAGE TIME SPENT BY PEOPLE WHO PERFORMED UNPAID HOUSEHOLD WORK AND WHETHER EMPLOYED, 1997

(a) Unemployed or not in the labour force.

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


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