Men Spend More Time in Leisure Activities, But Women Enjoy Leisure Time More
Researchers speculate that women simply make better decisions regarding which leisure activities to engage in.
The amount of time men spend on leisure activities is different from the time women devote to them, a study has found. Leisure activities, per this study, have been defined as “non-compulsory activities such as watching television, hobbies, socializing with family and friends, practicing a sport, attending cultural events, or hosting events.”
Based on the researchers’ assessment of 869 Spanish men and women, between ages 18 and 24, it was found that men clocked in approximately 113 minutes of daily leisure activities while women spent only 101 minutes engaging in them per day. However, researchers also noticed another difference. Although men spent more time engaging in leisure activities, women reported enjoying their leisure time more despite investing less time engaging in them.
Why women get less time for leisure can be attributed to the fact they still shoulder more domestic responsibilities, often in addition to working, than men. This, in turn, might also be able to explain why the little ‘free time’ they get is dearer to them, and therefore, why they end up enjoying it more.
Like Annabel Venning writes in her piece for The Telegraph, “More women are in paid work today, but we still do the lion’s share of the domestic duties.” And for women, domestic work is more than just physical work. Venning adds, “The moment we leave our desks, we plunge into another workplace of childcare, food shopping, multiple loads of laundry, filling in school forms, booking doctors and vet appointments – each individual task doesn’t take long but add them together and it’s a wonder we women have time to brush our teeth, let alone luxuriate in a long bath. Even our thinking time is taken up tackling what has been dubbed the ‘mental load’ – all the planning of what needs to be done.”
Take Shubhra Doshi’s case for instance. The 33-year-old PR professional doesn’t remember the last time she had time to sit and watch television. “I come back home to find my husband sitting on the couch and watching the news while I have to worry about finishing our son’s homework and cooking for the night. We’ve had massive arguments, but there’s been very little change. He only helps me with dishes while I’m responsible for the major chunk of everything at home.”
Her sister Shalaka Patel’s case, although not very different, is slightly better. “In the initial days after we got married, I found myself doing everything. After fights that lasted days, we made a plan about who will do how much, we tried to divide the workload equally. But somehow, I still have a lot more to do than he does. But at least, I have time to watch television, read a book and sometimes, very rarely though, go out with my friends. But I have to admit that he has more time for all this than me.”
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Per the current study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the difference between how much time women and men spend engaging in leisure activities may not be significant, but in the long term, it adds up to a lot. When added, men ended up spending at least an extra hour and a half per week — that’s an extra 70+ hours per year — engaging in leisure activities compared with women.
In a World Bank study assessing how women and men spent time — which corroborates the latest study — researchers found that considering the time invested in both paid and unpaid activities, women ended up working more than men and therefore, had less time available for leisure.
The World Bank report also went on to explore whether education reduced the gender gap in leisure time, but found that while being educated did increase the number of women entering the workforce, it didn’t make a difference in the amount of workload at home. “Women still retain their domestic responsibilities meaning their overall work increased,” reported LiveMint.
While the conclusions of the World Bank study are derived from samples from 19 countries, in India, the scene is no different. The Swaddle reported earlier in 2019 an Oxfam report that found urban Indian women end up spending 312 minutes each day on unpaid care work — which if paid would equal roughly 3.1% of the country’s GDP — while men spend 29. If shared equally by their partners, it would mean more time for leisure, at the very least.
Solving gender inequality requires looking within our homes — because, based on the above, it is evident that that’s where it all starts.
Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she's busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.