TIME USE AS A SOCIAL INDICATOR
Although each person has 24 hours in a day, the demands on time vary greatly from person to person. While personal choices contribute to differences in time use, life-cycle stage, family commitments, sex and other socio-economic characteristics have determining effects. Time use could be a useful indicator of well-being, having implications for income, health, equality of access to opportunities, and personal fulfilment. Comparisons can be made between various sub-groups, between a sub-group and the population as a whole, and between Australia and other countries. As this is the third national time use survey, comparisons can also be made over time.
Having too much to do, or too little to do, can both be seen as conditions of disadvantage, affecting income, health and morale. Persons living alone, for instance, who report no social contact and considerable stretches of time doing 'nothing' may not see themselves as fortunate. An unemployed person may prefer income-producing work to free time. However, having too much to do in some areas can interfere with adequate access to other uses of time. Someone who is caring for an elderly parent with a disability, for instance, may not have enough unencumbered time for income earning activities, with implications for that person's financial security in the future. Another person who works for income and also carries the main responsibility for parenting and housework may not have adequate leisure or rest time to maintain good health. The 2006 Time Use Survey explores the concept of 'time stress'. Questions in the diary record people's perception of how often they have too much or too little time and the reasons for this as well as their satisfaction with the way they spend their time.