Gender Inequality

How do people spend their time? This chart takes a global look

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If you were to map your time each day, what would it look like? Image: Unsplash/Lukas Blazek

Iman Ghosh
Author, Visual Capitalist
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  • From prioritizing work and household chores, to catching up with friends and volunteering, this chart shows how people across the globe spend time.
  • South Africans sleep the most, while people in Japan work the longest hours, and those in the US watch TV and listen to radio the most.
  • Women spend nearly three times more in unpaid care work compared to men - a total of 1.1 trillion hours each year - which means a less leisure time.
A chart showing how people split their time between work, sleep, personal care and leisure.
Do you spend a similar amount of time on these compared to the rest of your nation? Image: Our World In Data

A global look at how people spend their time

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but we don’t spend them the same way. Some prioritize family time or household chores, while others cherish a good night’s sleep or seeing friends.

This chart from Our World in Data compares the average time allocated across various day-to-day activities, from paid work to leisurely activities.

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The data for the 33 countries profiled come from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Time Use database, for ages 15 through 64 years old.

Countries with the highest time spent per activity

As the chart shows, basic patterns—work, rest, and play—emerge across the board.

When it comes to paid work, Japan emerges the highest on this list with approximately 5.5 hours per day. However, this country also has some of the highest overtime in a workweek. In contrast, European countries such as France and Spain report nearly half the same hours (less than 3 hours) of paid work per day on average.

Certain trends, however, transcend cultural boundaries. Those in Mexico find themselves spending significant portions of the day (3 hours or more) on housework, as do those in Portugal.

A chart showing which countries on average spend the most time on a range of activities
These are the countries spending the most time on each activity, from sleeping to working. Image: Visual Capitalist

As the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In the realm of leisure activities, those in the U.S. spend approximately 2.5 hours consuming media in a day, a number that has risen even higher during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, another interesting cultural pattern is that people in France spend the most time eating, approximately 2 hours per day. These durations are similar to those in other Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain—perhaps because meals are viewed as a social activity in these cultures.

Gender disparities in time spent

Digging deeper, another way to look at how people spend their time globally is through the lens of gender.

Women spend nearly three times more in unpaid care work compared to men—a whopping total of 1.1 trillion hours each year—which means a lot less leisure time. This inequality is clearly defined by country in the following scatterplot:

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In Norway, both men and women have equally high levels of leisure time—though it’s a rare example of such a case.

Meanwhile, in countries like India or China, significant gender gaps prevent women from moving up the socioeconomic ladder, potentially costing trillions of dollars to the global economy.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Gender InequalityBehavioural Sciences
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