The ABS classifies time according to activities, but also into the categories of ‘necessary time’, such as sleeping, eating, and personal hygiene; ‘contracted time’, such as work or education which have specific time obligations; ‘committed time’, such as child care, domestic duties and voluntary work, and ‘free time’, what’s left.
All household types record a slight drop in ‘free time’, by 0.5% to 2.1% of the day, between 1997 and 2006. Most household types also saw slight drops in ‘necessary time’. For households with kids, the greatest gains were in ‘contracted time’, with increases ranging from 0.9% for couples with kids over 15 to 5% for lone parents with kids under 15. Except for the latter group, there were also gains in ‘committed time’.
So does that ‘contracted time’ figure mean people are working longer hours? In 2006, the average man who had a job spent 7 hours and 56 minutes at work and 58 minutes on associated travel. In 1997 he spent 8 hours and 3 minutes at work and 60 minutes travelling. In 1992 he spent 7 hours and 53 minutes at work and 54 minutes travelling. (I’m getting the comparison figures from How Australians Use Their Time 1997.) So there is really no trend here. Even the traffic problems constantly in the news are hard to see in these figures.
For women, same story. 1992: 6 hours 31 minutes at work and 45 minutes travel. 1997: 6 hours 41 minutes and 53 minutes travel. 2006: 6 hours 31 minutes and 51 minutes travel.
The increase in ‘contracted time’ between 1997 and 2006 reflects the fact that more people have jobs, not that they are working longer.
In line with previous research, parents feel like they are busy. In couple families with kids under 15, 61% of men and 67% of women ‘often/always feel rushed for time’. The national averages are 43% for men and 47% for women. Yet the satisfaction with use of time for couples with kids is similar to the national average, with 62% of men satisfied and 61% of women, compared to 64% for both sexes as the national average. People who have kids know that it will make them busy, and think that it is worth it.
There is no evidence here of a work-life crisis here, nor of any increasing ‘imbalance’ over time. On average, people look like they have close to the 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, and 8 hours of other activities that was once the left’s goal.