General Social Survey: Time use

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Canadians who performed unpaid work, such as housework, childcare, and civic and voluntary activities, reported spending 4 hours 4 minutes on these activities on any given day in 2010, up 8 minutes from 1998.

Men increased the time they spent on unpaid work activities by 15 minutes from 1998 to 2010, while the time women spent on these activities remained stable.

On average, women spent 4 hours 38 minutes on a given day on unpaid work activities in 2010, 1 hour 13 minutes more than men.

Canadians who worked at a paid job on any given day in 2010 spent an average of 8 hours 12 minutes on paid work and related activities such as commuting to and from work.

The amount of time men spent on paid work and related activities decreased by 14 minutes on any given day between 1998 and 2010, to an average of 8 hours 36 minutes. In contrast, the time spent by women remained stable at just over 7 hours 40 minutes per day.

Both in 1998 and in 2010, men spent about an hour longer than did women on these activities.

Canadians spend more time on childcare

Canadians who took care of children reported spending 2 hours 31 minutes a day on childcare as their primary activity in 2010, up 21 minutes from 1998.

The younger the children, the more time parents spend taking care of them. In 2010, parents with children up to the age of 4 spent 2 hours 49 minutes of their day taking care of them as their primary activity. When adding on time spent caring for children while performing another activity, such as cooking or cleaning, parents spent 4 hours 52 minutes a day caring for this age group.

In comparison, the average time for parents whose youngest child was aged 5 to 12 was 1 hour 16 minutes as a primary activity and 1 hour 59 minutes when added to other activities done at the same time.

Regardless of the child's age, women spent more time on their care than did men. For example, women with children up to the age of 4 spent 6 hours 33 minutes per day caring for them. Among men, the corresponding duration was 3 hours 7 minutes.

Fewer Canadians watch television, more use computers

The proportion of Canadians who reported watching television on any given day declined over the 12-year period from 77% to 73%. In 2010, those who watched television spent 2 hours 52 minutes doing so, similar to 1998.

Far more Canadians used a computer during their leisure time in 2010 compared with 1998. The proportion of those who reported using computers for such things as email, on-line social networking, and searching for information increased nearly five-fold from 5% to 24%.

Canadians who used computers spent an average of 1 hour 23 minutes on the computer on any given day. Computer use increased significantly across all age groups. In 2010, the age group with the highest proportion of computer use continued to be those aged 15 to 24.

Note to readers

This release provides initial results from the 2010 General Social Survey on time use.

In this survey, nearly 15,400 Canadians aged 15 and over were asked to report in a daily journal details on the time they spent on various activities on a given day. The survey also asked questions on such topics as time stress, well-being, and participation in sports, cultural activities and transportation. The survey covered the 10 provinces.

This release presents results on the number of hours Canadians spent on paid and unpaid work, periods of free time and leisure, and how these have changed since the 1998 time use survey. In addition, it examines Canadians' perceptions of time stress.

Video game use also increased. The proportion of people reporting playing video games on any given day doubled from 3% in 1998 to 6% in 2010. Canadians who played video games increased the amount of daily time they spent on this activity from 1 hour 48 minutes in 1998 to 2 hours 20 minutes in 2010.

Canadians socialize less face-to-face, sleep more

In 2010, people spent less time socializing with friends and relatives face-to-face, talking on the telephone and having meals in restaurants. The proportion of people who took part in such social activities declined from 66% in 1998 to 59% in 2010. This decline might be explained in part by the fact that people are spending more time interacting with others through on-line social networks and text messaging rather than the more traditional means of socializing.

Canadians aged 15 and over reported getting 13 minutes of additional sleep from 1998 to 2010. This brought the average time spent on daily sleep to 8 hours 18 minutes.

Canadians report less time stress

In general, Canadians appeared to be experiencing less time stress. In 2010, 34% of people aged 15 and over reported feeling trapped in a daily routine, down from 39% in 1998. The proportion who felt they had no time for fun declined from 38% to 29%.

Fewer people reported that they wanted to slow down in the coming year, and fewer described themselves as workaholics. Fewer also reported that they were concerned about not spending enough time with family and friends.

These declines may be due to the fact that the age group 55 and over represented a larger share of the Canadian population in 2010 compared with 1998. In general, people in this age group tend to feel less stressed by time pressures than their younger counterparts.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4503.

The publication General Social Survey – 2010: Overview of the Time Use of Canadians (89-647-X, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (613-951-5979;, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.