Minute By Minute
How Australians Spend Their Time
The television drama series ‘24’ depicts the adventures of fictional counter terrorist agent Jack Bauer in real time, with each minute of the program corresponding to a minute in the characters’ lives. But what if the lives of ordinary Australians were depicted minute by minute? In effect, that’s what the ABS did earlier this year by tracking the activities of Australians and what they did over a 24-hour period.
If you’re an average Australian, you might be surprised to find out exactly how you spend your time over the course of a day. That’s because you’re likely to spend nearly half the day either sleeping or on personal care; more time on recreation and leisure than working; and more time shopping than on childcare.
And, as many women might have suspected, the survey shows they’re doing three times as much housework as their male counterparts, and mums are spending almost three times as much time as dads looking after the kids. But it’s not as if the blokes are all sitting on the couch, watching the footy; the survey shows they spend more time than women on chores involving home maintenance and caring for both grounds and animals.
The latest Time Use Survey carried out by the ABS looked at the primary activities carried out by Australians aged 15 and over during a 24-hour period in 2006. It found that they spend:
•10 hours and 57 minutes on personal care (including 8:31 sleeping)
•4 hours and 13 minutes on recreation and leisure (including 2:20 on audio/visual media)
•3 hours and 27 minutes on employment-related activities
•2 hours and 15 minutes on domestic duties
•48 minutes purchasing goods and services
•43 minutes on social and community interaction
•41 minutes on childcare
•30 minutes on education
•19 minutes on voluntary work and care, and
•7 minutes of the day lost in the statistician’s catch-all “undescribed” category.
How men and women spend their time differently
The survey shows that people spend their time differently, and often the difference is gender based. For instance, the survey shows that females spend about 25 per cent more time than males on personal hygiene.
And when it comes to work, males spend almost twice as long engaged in paid employment than women, and twice as long getting to and from work. But it’s in the area of domestic activities where the largest discrepancies occur. Women spend an average of 2 hours and 52 minutes a day on domestic activities, compared to the 1 hour and 37 minutes of men.
But perhaps men are beginning to get the message about housework.
Over the past 14 years ABS Time Use Surveys have shown that the huge differences between the time males and females spend on housework have narrowed slightly.
The 1992 Time Use Survey estimated males spent only 37 minutes per day on housework, compared to women’s 2 hours and 27 minutes. By 1997, this had become 40 minutes for men, and 2 hours and 19 minutes for women.
But, back to 2006 figures. Males did spend more time than females on “other” housework such as grounds and home maintenance, but this only clawed back 10 minutes of the 1 hour 15 minute total housework difference. Females also spent more time on childcare (59 minutes compared to 22 minutes), more on purchasing goods and services (58 minutes compared to 38 minutes), and extra on voluntary work and care (24 minutes to 15 minutes). Males spent more time on recreation and leisure (4 hours and 29 minutes, compared to 3 hours and 57 minutes). While males spent more time engaging in the physical aspects of recreation and leisure, such as sport and games, females devoted more time to reading and talking.
Between the 1997 and 2006 Time Use Surveys, the time females spent on laundry and clothes care fell by 4 minutes a day, about the time it takes to iron a shirt. Over that same period, the time males spent on laundry and clothes remained unchanged. This suggests there were a lot of males going around in wrinkled shirts in 2006.
Australia is not the only country to conduct time use surveys. The USA, UK, NZ, Canada and others conduct similar surveys that show, among other things, differences in the time that people sleep each day.
Comparisons show that while Australians spend 8 hours and 31 minutes per day sleeping, Britons spend only 8 hours and 11 minutes, while Americans are curled up asleep for 8 hours and 57 minutes.
What people get up to on their weekends
On weekends, there are predictable rises in both time spent sleeping, and time spent in social and recreational activities. Sunday is the big day for these activities, with males indulging in both activities more than females. Males sleep an extra 1 hour and 15 minutes on Sundays compared to weekdays, along with an extra 1 hour and 33 minutes spent on recreation and leisure.
If you have the inclination (and perhaps more importantly the time), the full breakdown of results can be obtained from the ABS website (publication 4153.0 – How Australians Use Their Time, 2006).
Client Liaison & Information Services,
ABS Western Australia
This page last updated 9 December 2008