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Less family time

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Working Canadians are spending less time with family, and the decrease is widespread. It affects men, women, workers living with a spouse only and those living with children, workers with a college degree and those who have not completed high school. Workers living with one child under five spend the most time with family; lone parents living with a youth or young adult spend the least.

From 1986 to 2005, the average time workers spent with family members on a typical workday dropped from 250 minutes per day to 206 minutes per day. And workers are not replacing family time with friends—that also dropped, from 44 minutes to 19 minutes.

Average time devoted to paid employment has risen significantly, from 506 minutes to 536 minutes. As well, workers are spending more time alone—an average 174 minutes per day in solitary activities in 2005, compared with 133 minutes per day in 1986. Nevertheless, in 2005, about one in three workers said they would like more time alone. Time alone does not count solitary time on the job.

Five trends have cut into family time since 1986. First, workers are far more likely to have at least one meal, snack or coffee alone—27% in 2005 compared with only 17% in 1986. Second, the average time spent at meals outside work hours has decreased from 60 minutes to 45 minutes. Third, more workers are watching television alone—27% in 2005 versus 17% in 1986. Fourth, workers are spending more time on personal care, such as washing, dressing and sleeping, rather than with family. And fifth, workers are spending less than half the time they did in 1986 on social activities outside the home.