Time use: Total work burden, unpaid work, and leisure

by Melissa Moyser, PhD and Amanda BurlockNote 

Release date: July 30, 2018

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Introduction

The increased labour force participation of women has led to changes in the economic structure of families.Note  Since the mid-1970s, the proportion of dual-earner families has risen by about 20 percentage points (from 39.2% to 58.8%).Note  At the same time, the proportion of lone-parent families has nearly doubled (from 8.4% to 14.2%), and the proportion of families in which the wife or female partner was the sole earner also grown.Note  These changes have contributed to a steep decline in the proportion of families in which the husband or male partner was the sole earner.

With these changes, balancing work and family life has become more challenging for both women and men.Note  The increasing contributions of women to the economic well-being of their families have eroded traditional gender roles, which assign women primary responsibility for unpaid work (i.e., housework and caregiving), and men primary responsibility for earning. The growing demands of paid work and family life have further eroded the gendered division of labour.Note Note Note  Faced with economic pressures and global competition, employers often expect high levels of commitment from their lean workforces; rely heavily on communication technology (e.g., e-mail and cellular phones) and laptop computers that make it possible for employees to work at all times and from anywhere; and reward long hours of work and “face time” at the office.Note Note Note Note Note  At the same time, parents–particularly mothers–are expected to invest heavily in childrearing, spending plenty of ‘quality time’ with their children, fostering their children’s development through exposure to a variety of extracurricular activities, and making constant efforts to enrich their children’s environment.Note Note Note Note  Delayed childbearing and transitions to adulthood, as well as population aging, also increase the likelihood that both children and elderly parents need support from middle-aged workers.Note  Together, these incongruous trends have renewed interest in how women and men share financial, child care, and household responsibilities.Note 

Time is a finite resource, meaning that time spent on one activity reduces the amount of time available for other activities. Knowing how women and men allocate their time to various activities during a typical day is essential to understanding gender inequality in society, as one’s activities in the private sphere (i.e., housework and caregiving) have implications for the extent and nature of their participation in the public sphere (i.e., paid employment), and vice versa.Note Note 

Using data from the 1986, 2010, and 2015 General Social Survey on Time Use and the 2012 General Social Survey on Caregiving and Care Receiving, this chapter of Women in Canada examines gender differences in the allocation of time to housework, caregiving and leisure, and how they have evolved over the past 30 years. The total work burden of women and men—defined as the amount of time spent on paid and unpaid work in combination—is also examined. Unless otherwise stated, the estimates presented here pertain to individuals aged 25 to 54 living in the 10 provinces, and exclude institutionalized populations, First Nations reserves, and those residing in the territories. This age group was chosen because it encompasses the years during the life course when earning and caring roles are most onerous. Young adults (aged 15 to 24) and seniors (aged 55 years or older) generally have different patterns of time use from working-age adults, as they are more likely to be full-time students or retired.

Reconciling competing claims regarding gender differences in time use

Previous research has generated competing claims regarding gender differences in time use. On one hand, there is evidence that the total work burden of women and men is now equal in CanadaNote  and the United States.Note Note  Women are doing more paid work and less housework than was the case in the past, while preserving time with children.Note Note Note Note Note Note Note Note  Men are doing less paid work and more unpaid work, particularly child care.Note Note Note Note Note Note 

On the other hand, there is evidence that men have not increased their participation in unpaid work to the same extent as either women have increased their participation in paid work, or as women have decreased their participation in unpaid work.Note Note Note Note  As a result, women effectively perform a “second shift” of unpaid work after their paid work.Note Note Note  Qualitative research also highlights women’s retention of ultimate responsibility for the coordination of children’s lives; the smooth functioning of the household (e.g., planning meals; scheduling medical, dental, and other appointments; and arranging for repairs or deliveries); “emotion work” (i.e., the enhancement of relatives’ emotional well-being and provision of support); and “kin keeping” (i.e., the maintenance of relationships with immediate and extended family by keeping in touch; remembering and acknowledging birthdays and other milestones; and planning and organizing family celebrations and vacations)—even as their economic roles have expanded.Note Note Note Note Note Note Note  Although women often spend substantial amounts of time doing such mental and emotional work, it is largely invisible to others (except in its absence), typically lacks social recognition, and goes unmeasured in time-use surveys.Note 

The notion that women perform a disproportionate share of unpaid work is supported by evidence that they have heighted perceptions of time pressure—defined as “both a cognitive awareness of not having enough time and the emotional experience of hectic pace, harriedness, and rushing, accompanied by apprehension and frustration”—relative to men.Note  In 2015, 48.9% of women aged 25 to 54 in Canada reported that, at the end of the day, they often felt that they had not accomplished what they set out to do, compared with 43.4% of men; 68.6% of women reported that they felt under stress when they did not have enough time, compared with 60.0% of men; and 46.3% of women reported feeling constantly under stress trying to accomplish more than they could handle, compared with 39.8% of men.

The competing claims about women’s and men’s time use have different implications regarding gender inequality in society. If women and men have altered their allocation of time doing paid and unpaid work in the direction of convergence, it is suggestive of progress toward gender equality. Conversely, if women’s greater allocation of time to paid work has not led to a significant redistribution of unpaid work to men, it is suggestive of continued enactments of the traditional gendered division of labour on a daily basis and, therefore, a “stalled” gender revolution.Note Note Note 

How can these claims be reconciled? Gender differences in multitasking—defined as “the simultaneous performance of several tasks or the rapid alteration between them that allows individuals to squeeze in more tasks and get more things done within a limited amount of time”—may be relevant.Note  While paid work is generally done as a main or “primary” activity, housework and child care are often done in conjunction with other activities (i.e., as “simultaneous” activities), typically leisure. Note Note Note  For example, a parent may spend time folding laundry, while supervising her/his children and watching television. Previous research largely focuses on unpaid work as a primary activity. Given that women are more likely than men to both do unpaid work and multitask, this practice may systematically underestimate how much time women actually spend on unpaid work activities and their total work burden, and yield a distorted image of progress toward gender equality.Note Note Note Note  Therefore, data on both the primary and simultaneous activities of women and men are presented in this chapter.

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Textbox 1: The General Social Survey on Time Use

Established in 1985, Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey (GSS) program was designed as a series of independent, annual, cross-sectional surveys, each covering one theme in-depth. The overall objectives of the program continue to be gathering data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well-being of Canadians, and providing information on specific social policy issues.

The theme of the first GSS, conducted in 1986, was “Time Use.” This theme has been revisited every 5 to 7 years since then, most recently in 2015. The Time Use survey employs a retrospective 24-hour time diary to collect information on respondents’ participation in, and time spent on, a wide variety of day-to-day activities, lasting at least 10 minutes. Information is also collected on the location that these activities occurred and, for non-personal activities, the people who were with the respondent at the time of the activity.

For the first time in 2010, the GSS on Time Use included questions regarding participation in, and the duration of, other activities being performed at the same time as the main or “primary” activity, allowing for a better understanding of multitasking. Questions regarding participation in simultaneous activities were retained for the 2015 GSS; however, questions regarding the duration of those activities were not. For this reason, the present analysis complements data on primary activities from the 2015 GSS with data on simultaneous activities from the 2010 GSS. The average duration of time spent on housework, childcare and leisure as primarily activities were comparable in 2010 and 2015, suggesting that the same will be true of simultaneous activities.

The GSS on Time Use had a lower response rate in 2015 than it did in 2010: 38% versus 55%. The response rate for the 2015 GSS was also 8 to 15 percentage points lower than that observed for other cycles of the survey conducted in the past decade. Statistics Canada has endeavored to ensure that the 2015 GSS data are fit-for-use by applying appropriate non-response adjustments to survey weights and validating key survey estimates to several other data sources. Nevertheless, estimates for small population groups may be subject to higher sampling error and greater risks of non-response bias. For this reason, the 2015 GSS data will not support consideration of gendered patterns of time use among Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities, immigrants, or people with disabilities.

For more information on the 2015 GSS, please refer to General Social Survey 2015 Time Use Survey Technical Note.

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Total work burden

Two types of work are fundamental to capitalist societies: paid employment associated with the waged economy, and unpaid domestic labour that produces and sustains both the current generation of workers and the children who are the future workforce.Note Note  For a variety of reasons, women tend to spend more time on unpaid work than do men. In 2015, women in Canada spent an average of 3.9 hours per day on unpaid work as a primary activity—1.5 hours more than did men (2.4 hours) (Chart 1).

The gender gap in time spent on unpaid work is greater when the simultaneous performance of unpaid work with other activities is included in estimates, as more women did unpaid work as a simultaneous activity than did men. Specifically, 60.8% of women did unpaid work as a simultaneous activity in 2015, compared with 40.2% of men. Women spent an average of 2.5 hours more per day on all unpaid-work activities—both primary and simultaneous—in 2010 than did men: 5.4 versus 2.9 hours.

While women tend to spend more time on unpaid work than men, they are less likely to participate in the labour market and, when they do, they are more likely to be employed on a part-time basis.Note  Based on data from the Labour Force Survey, 82.0% of women in Canada participated in the labour market in 2015, compared with 90.9% of men.Note  Employed women usually spent an average of 5.6 hours less per week on all jobs than did men (35.5 versus 41.1 hours). Based on data from the 2015 GSS, women spent an average of 3.9 hours per day on paid work, while men spent an average of 5.2 hours per day on paid work (Chart 1).Note  It is important to recognize that the unpaid work done disproportionately by women for their families facilitates men’s higher rate of labour force participation and longer work hours.Note 

The total work burden of women and men was equivalent in 2015 (7.8 and 7.6 hours, respectively). However, when unpaid work performed as a simultaneous activity was included, women's total work burden was an average of 1.2 hours greater per day than men's in 2010 (9.1 versus 7.9 hours).

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Textbox 2: Total work burden of Canadian women and men in the international context

Canadian women and men aged 15 to 64 spent similar amounts of time on unpaid work as their counterparts in other G7 countries, with the exception of Italy, where women spent more time on unpaid work, and Japan, where men spent less time on unpaid work (Chart 2). Women in Sweden spent less time on unpaid work than women in Canada.

Canadian women and men also spent equivalent amounts of time on paid work as their counterparts in the United States and Sweden, but more time on paid work than their counterparts in other G7 countries. The exception to this pattern is Japan, where men spent considerably more time on paid work than their counterparts in other G7 countries and Sweden.

Canadians have the highest total work burden among the G7 countries and Sweden. Italian men, followed by French men and women, have the lowest total work burden.

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Textbox 3: Time-use measures: Participation rate, and average time spent on an activity among the population and participants

In time-use research, it is standard practice to calculate the average amount of time spent on a given activity in a given period of time among the population. Some members of the population will have participated in the activity, while some have not. It follows that the average amount of time spent on the activity among the population reflects both the proportion of the population that participated in the activity (i.e., the participation rate), and the amount of time that participants within the population spent on the activity. The average amount of time spent on the activity will generally be greater when the denominator consists of participants, as opposed to the population. The reason is that the aggregate amount of time spent on the activity—that is, the numerator—is the same whether the denominator is participants (typically a smaller number) or the population (typically a larger number). When examining activities that everyone does, such as eating and sleeping, the average amount of time spent on the activity is the same for participants as it is for the population.

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Housework

Women are more likely than men to participate in housework activities, and they spend more time doing so

Housework refers to a wide range of chores geared toward maintaining household members, their home and the property on which it sits, and their vehicles.Note  It is well-established that women typically spend more time on housework than do men.Note Note Note Note Note  Indeed, women in Canada spent an average of 2.8 hours per day on housework as a primary activity in 2015—54 minutes more than did men (1.9 hours per day) (Chart 3). That translates to women spending an average of 6.3 hours more than men on housework each week.

In 2015, a greater proportion of women performed housework than did men (89.9% versus 76.2%). Among those who participated in housework, women spent an average of 36 minutes more per day on that activity than did men (3.1 versus 2.5 hours).

Gender specialization in housework—that is, women and men performing different household tasks—contributes to the gender gap in time spent on housework. Previous research demonstrates that women tend to do tasks that are routine and repetitive, such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and shopping, while men do tasks that are more episodic or discretionary, such as taking out the garbage, house and car repairs, mowing the lawn, and gardening.Note Note  Understanding gender as something that individuals “do” as they carry out everyday activities,Note  feminist sociologists interpret gender-differentiated housework as enactments of feminine and masculine identities.Note Note 

Consistent with previous research, women in Canada were more likely than men to participate in meal and snack preparation (72.5% versus 55.4%), indoor house cleaning (53.5% versus 30.7%), and laundry (14.6% versus 3.2%) in 2015 (Chart 4). On the other hand, women were less likely than men to participate in outdoor maintenance (6.1% versus 12.8%) and repair, painting, and renovation (1.3% versus 3.3%).

Research from the United States demonstrates that there has been a slight shift in the distribution of housework toward greater gender equality since the mid-1960s.Note Note Note  As women’s labour force participation and work hours have increased, they have reduced the amount of time that they spend on housework.Note  The same trend has occurred in Canada, as the amount of time that women spent on housework as a primary activity decreased from an average of 3.5 hours per day in 1986 to an average of 2.8 hours per day in 2015 (a difference of 42 minutes per day) (Chart 3).

This decrease partly reflects a slight reduction in the proportion of women participating in housework (92.3% in 1986 versus 89.9% in 2015) (Chart 4). The household tasks in which women’s participation was most reduced were indoor housecleaning (from 71.8% to 53.5%) and laundry (from 27.5% to 14.6%).

Among women who participated in housework, the amount of time that they spent also decreased between 1986 and 2015, from an average of 3.8 hours per day to an average of 3.1 hours per day (a difference of 42 minutes).

While the amount of time that women spent on housework decreased over the last three decades, the amount of time that men spent on housework increased, from an average of 1.5 hours per day in 1986 to an average of 1.9 hours per day in 2015 (a difference of 24 minutes per day) (Chart 3). This increase largely reflects an increase in the proportion of men who participated in housework, from 64.3% in 1986 to 76.2% in 2015 (a difference of 11.9 percentage points). The household tasks in which men’s participation grew the most were meal preparation (from 30.6% to 55.4%) and indoor housecleaning (20.9% to 30.7%) (Chart 4).

Among men who participated in housework, the amount of time that they spent was essentially unchanged between 1986 and 2015 (around 2.5 hours per day).

In summary, women in Canada were more likely than men to participate in housework and, when they did so, women spent more time on housework than did men. Over the past 30 years, the time that women spent on housework decreased by an average of 42 minutes per day, while the time that men spent on housework increased by an average 24 minutes per day. It follows that men made up for a little more than half of the reduction in the time spent on housework by women.

When housework performed as a simultaneous activity is considered, women spent an average of 1.4 hours more per day on all housework than did men (3.4 versus 2.0 hours) (Chart 3). A greater proportion of women performed housework as a simultaneous activity than did men (93.2% versus 79.8%), however, the gender participation gap was similar to the one observed for housework performed as a primary activity at 13.4 percentage points.

Unlike men, the amount of time women spend on housework is related to their paid-work hours

There are three theoretical explanations for gender differences in time spent on housework: the gender perspective (i.e., the gendered division of housework as a repetitious expression of “appropriate” gender roles and relations), mentioned above; the time availability perspective; and the relative resources perspective.Note  The time availability perspective suggests that housework is allocated rationally within households on the basis of spouse/partners’ relative hours of paid work and the amount of housework that needs to be done.Note  According to this perspective, employment and longer paid-work hours will correspond to less time spent on housework.

Indeed, in 2015, women who were employed on a part-time basis spent an average of 54 minutes less per day on housework (3.0 hours per day) than did women who were not employed (3.9 hours per day), and women who were employed full-time spent an average of 1.4 hours less per day on housework (2.5 hours per day) (Chart 5). Among men, paid work hours did not significantly affect the amount of time spent on housework.

The time availability perspective also suggests that time spent on housework will increase with family size, as more housework needs to be done. Consistent with this perspective, individuals in families spent more time on housework than did those living alone in 2015, with women in all family types spending more time on housework than their male counterparts, with the exception of lone-parent families (Chart 6). Specifically, unattached women spent an average of 2.2 hours per day on housework—30 minutes more than did their male counterparts. By comparison, women in couples with no children under the age of 18 spent an average of 2.6 hours per day on housework—42 minutes more than did their male counterparts. Women in couple families spent more time on housework when their youngest child was pre-school aged (0 to 4 years) or school aged (5 to 17 years) than they did when they had no children under the age of 18. Men in couple families spent more time on housework when their child was school aged than they did when they had either a pre-school-aged child or no children under the age of 18. Women in couple families whose youngest child was pre-school aged spent an average of 3.2 hours per day on housework—1.2 hours more than did their male counterparts (2.0 hours). Women in couple families whose youngest child was school aged spent an average of 3.4 hours per day on housework—1.1 hours more than did their male counterparts (2.3 hours).

The relative resources perspective suggests that the allocation of housework within households reflects power dynamics between women and men, as determined by the relative resources partners/spouses’ bring to the relationship.Note  According to this perspective, higher levels of education and income relative to one’s partner/spouse are expected to translate into more power, which is used to avoid doing housework. An alternative interpretation is that the competitive advantage that comes from higher levels of education and income corresponds to less time spent on housework.

Consistent with the relative resources perspective, having a university certificate, diploma, or degree at the Bachelor’s level or above was associated with women spending less time on housework than their counterparts with lower levels of educational attainment in 2015 (Chart 7). For example, women with a university degree spent an average of 2.6 hours per day on housework—36 minutes fewer than women with no certificate, diploma, or degree, who spent an average of 3.2 hours per day on housework. The same pattern was observed among men, in that those with a university degree spent slightly less time on housework (1.8 hours per day) than did those with a trades certificate or diploma (2.2 hours per day) or a college, CEGEP or other non-university certificate/diploma (2.2 hours per day). However, there was no significant difference in time spent on housework among men with a university degree and those with no certificate, diploma or degree.

Notably, the gender gap in time spent on housework was greater among those with no certificate, diploma or degree than it was among those with post-secondary education.

The amount of time that women spend on housework decreased as one moves up the personal income distribution (Chart 8). For instance, women in the top 25% of the income distribution spent an average of 2.5 hours per day on housework in 2015—one hour less than did women bottom 25% of the income distribution (3.5 hours per day). In contrast, the amount of time that men spent on housework was similar across the income distribution. It may be the case that as women earn more, they can afford to substitute paid services (i.e., outsource) for their own housework.Note 

Caregiving

Both mothers and fathers spend more time on child care than thirty years ago, but women have increased their time with children to a greater extent than men

Despite their increased labour force participation and its continuation over the life course, women are the predominant providers of informal (i.e., unpaid) care to children as well as to family members and friends with mental or physical limitations related to aging or chronic health conditions or disabilities. According to data from the 2012 General Social Survey (GSS) on Caregiving and Care Receiving, 62.3% of women aged 25 to 54 in Canada had a child under the age of 13 in the household, and/or served as a caregiver to family members and friends. The comparable figure for men was 56.7%.

Using the 2015 GSS on Time Use, child care as a primary activity can be distinguished from caregiving provided to an adult, either within the household or outside of it, such as assistance with personal care, grocery shopping, and transportation. These data confirm that women spend more time on child care than do men, and that gender gap has grown over time. Women spent an average of one hour per day caring for children 2015—30 minutes more than did men (30 minutes) (Chart 9). This partly reflects the fact that more women participated in caring for children than did men (37.4% versus 25.3%). Yet even among participants, women spent an average of 36 minutes more per day caring for children than did men (2.6 versus 2.0 hours).

Both women and men spent more time caring for children in 2015 than they did in 1986. Specifically, the average amount of time that women and men spent on child care increased by 12 minutes per day between 1986 and 2015 (from 48 minutes to one hour and from 18 to 30 minutes, respectively). These findings are consistent with studies in the United States, showing that mothers have maintained their time spent with children, even though they are spending more time on paid work and less time on housework, and fathers have augmented their time spent with children.Note Note Note Note  This increase in time spent with children over time may partly reflect the ever-more intensive form of childrearing in which previous research demonstrates middle-class parents, particularly mothers, are engaged.Note Note Note 

Notably, the gender gap in time spent on child care was stable between 1986 and 2015 at 30 minutes. Although fewer women participated in child care in 2015 than they did in 1986 (37.4% versus 41.7%), those who participated increased the amount of time that they spent on child care to a greater extent (36 minutes per day, from 2.0 to 2.6 hours per day) than did their male counterparts (24 minutes per day, from 1.6 to 2.0 hours per day).

When child care performed simultaneously with other activities is considered, the gender gap in time spent doing so is greater than when child care is considered as a primary activity only. Specifically, women spent an average of 1.9 hours per day on all child-care activities in 2010—one hour more per day than men (54 minutes per day). This partially reflects the fact that women were more likely than men to combine child care with other activities (42.2% of women did so, compared with 30.1% of men).

A greater proportion of women than men perform routine child-care tasks on a given day, and spend more time doing so

Like housework, child-care tasks are gendered: women generally spend more time than men on routine tasks related to the physical care of children.Note Note  In 2010, 76.1% of women in Canada, aged 25 to 54, whose youngest child in the household was under the age of 16 performed routine child-care tasks on a given day, compared with 56.7% of men (a difference of 19.4 percentage points) (Chart 10).Note  Further, these women spent nearly one hour more per day on routine child-care tasks than their male counterparts (2.3 versus 1.4 hours per day, a difference of 54 minutes).

The gender gap in participation and time spent was smaller for tasks related to child engagement, development, and education.Note  Around 40% of women whose youngest child was under the age of 16 performed these tasks, as did 27.4% of men (a difference of 11.8 percentage points). Women who participated in child engagement, development, and education spent an average of 36 minutes per day on these tasks—about 12 minutes more than their male counterparts (24 minutes per day).

Women are overrepresented among caregivers, particularly when the care recipient has a long-term health condition or a physical or mental disability

Caregiving provided to an adult family member or friend, either within the household or outside of it, plays an important role in maintaining the health, well-being, quality of life, and functional independence of recipients, and reducing demands on health care and social service systems. Women provide a disproportionate share of that support, relative to men. Specifically, the proportion of women who provided care to an adult family member or friend on a given day was three times that of men in 2015 (3.3% versus 1.2%). Among those who provided such care, women spent an average of 1.6 hours per day on adult caregiving—36 minutes more than men (1.0 hour per day).

The time-diary approach used in the GSS on Time Use is likely to underestimate time spent providing care to an adult family member or friend, insofar as such caregiving is often performed on an intermittent—as opposed to a daily—basis. Data from the 2012 GSS on Caregiving and Care Receiving demonstrate that 28.8% of Canadians aged 25 to 54 were caregivers, defined as those who provided help or care in the past 12 months to (a) someone with problems related to one or more chronic conditions or (b) someone with problems related to aging. Of these caregivers, 11.8% saw their primary-care recipient on a daily basis. For this reason, data from the 2012 GSS on Caregiving and Care Receiving are used here to provide a more complete picture of the time spent on caregiving by women and men.

No gender differences were observed among caregivers with respect to the condition of care recipients (i.e., those with a long-term health condition, or physical or mental disability versus those with problems related to aging) (Chart 11).

Gender differences were apparent in the tasks with which caregivers provided assistance, with the exceptions of banking, bill paying or management of finances (Chart 12). Female caregivers were more likely than male caregivers to help with personal care (32.8% versus 14.8%); housework, such as meal preparation and clean-up, housecleaning, and laundry (64.9% versus 45.9%); scheduling or coordinating care-related tasks (44.1% versus 29.3%); medical treatments (33.6% versus 23.5%); and transportation (81.6% versus 77.8%). Female caregivers were less likely than male caregivers to help with household maintenance (43.4% versus 66.6%). In a typical week, female caregivers spent an average of 11.8 hours helping with these activities—4.4 hours more than did male caregivers (7.4 hours).

For most female and male caregivers, their primary-care recipient was a member of their immediate family: a current or former spouse/partner, child, parent, or sibling (57.6% and 61.1%, respectively) (Chart 13). Equivalent proportions of female and male caregivers had extended-family (i.e., a grandparent, aunt/uncle, or cousin) as their primary-care recipients (28.4% and 25.4%). Similarly, equivalent proportions of female and male caregivers had friends, neighbours, and coworkers as their primary-care recipients (around 14%).

Most caregivers are part of couple families with children

In 2012, the majority of female and male caregivers were part of couple families with children (58.7% and 66.3% respectively), as opposed to other types of families. Women and men in these families were equally likely to be caregivers (49.1% and 50.9%, respectively). Unattached women and men were also equally likely to be caregivers (47.8% and 52.2%, respectively). However, women were overrepresented as caregivers among lone-parent families and couple families with no children: 71.8% of lone mothers were caregivers, compared with 28.2% of lone fathers, and 57.4% of women in couples with no children were caregivers, compared with 42.6% of men in couples with no children.

Leisure

Women spend less time on leisure activities than men, and they are more likely to do such activities at the same time as unpaid work

Leisure is an important part of daily life that enables individuals to relax and recharge; engage in enrichment activities and reflection; and enhance relationships and form social networks upon which they can draw in times of need.Note  Notably, women’s and men’s free time differs in both quantity and quality, as women typically spend less time on leisure activities than do men, and it often overlaps with unpaid work.Note 

Women in Canada spent less time on leisure activitiesNote  than did men in 2015, although both sexes spent less time on these activities in 2015 than did their counterparts in 1986 (Chart 14). Women spent an average of 3.6 hours per day on leisure activities in 2015—30 minutes fewer than did either men in 2015 (4.1 hours per day) or women in 1986 (also 4.1 hours per day). Women and men in 2015 were equally likely to participate in leisure activities as their counterparts in 1986, but those who did so reduced the amount of time that they spent on these activities by 24 and 12 minutes, respectively, between 1986 and 2015.

In addition to spending less time on leisure than men, women participated in different types of leisure activities. Specifically, women were more likely than men to participate in reading or listening to music or radio (17.0% versus 11.7%); socializing (38.5% versus 33.0%); and arts and hobbies, leisure activities or writing (14.3% versus 11.5%). On the other hand, men were more likely than women to participate in active sports (20.2% versus 17.1%) and the use of technology (29.3% versus 26.5%).

When women participated in leisure as a primary activity, they were more likely than men to simultaneously do unpaid work or be in the company of their children. Nearly 20% women in Canada performed housework and/or caregiving at the same time as leisure activities in 2015, compared with 6.0% of men. Also, among those whose youngest child was under the age of 16, 53.5% of women did leisure activities with their children, as did 46.5% of their male counterparts. Previous research demonstrates that when leisure is done in combination with housework and/or child care, it tends to be more fragmented and less relaxing and restorative.Note 

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Textbox 4: Time use among young Canadians (aged 15 to 24)

The total work burden of young Canadians aged 15 to 24 is less than that of Canadians in the core-working ages of 25 to 54, even when time spent studying or learning is included. Young women spent an average of 6.6 hours per day on studying and learning, paid work, and unpaid household work combined in 2015—1.4 hours less than women aged 25 to 54 (8 hours); young men spent an average of 5.8 hours per day on these activities—2.1 hours less than men aged 25 to 54 (7.9 hours).

What do young Canadians do with their free time? Young women and men and their counterparts aged 25 to 54 spent similar amounts of time on personal care; eating or drinking; travelling to and from activities; shopping; socializing; civic, religious and organizational activities; arts and hobbies; watching television or videos; and reading or listening to music or the radio. However, young people spent more time sleeping, resting, relaxing, and sick in bed, and using technology than did those in the core-working ages.Note 

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Textbox 5: Time use among older Canadians (aged 55 or older)

Canada’s population is aging, such that, for the first time in 2016, the Census of Population enumerated more seniors (aged 65 or older) than children aged 14 or younger.Note  This trend reflects both below-replacement-level fertility, which has prevailed in Canada since 1972, and greater longevity.Note  Women are overrepresented among older Canadians (aged 55 or older), particularly at advanced ages, because they have a longer life expectancy than men.Note  Based on the 2016 Census, the number of senior women surpassed the number of senior men by more than 20%, and there were two women aged 85 or older for every man in that age group.Note 

How do older Canadians use their time? Older women and men allocate their time in ways that parallel traditional gender roles, even though they have generally transitioned out of paid work and active parenthood.Note  According to data from the 2015 Labour Force Survey, fewer older women were employed than older men (31.1% versus 40.9%).Note  Based on data from the 2015 GSS, employed older women spent less time on paid work each day than their male counterparts (4.7 versus 5.6 hours on average). On the other hand, a greater proportion of older women participated in unpaid household work than did older men (93.3% versus 86.5%) and, when they did so, older women spent more time on unpaid household work than did older men (4.1 versus 3.4 hours per day on average).Note 

Ninety-five percent of older women and men participated in leisure activities, and those who did spent an average of about 6 hours per day on leisure. As Arriagada (2018) highlights, women and men aged 65 or older engage in different types of leisure activities. Specifically, older women were less likely to participate in watching television or videos than older men (78.6% versus 82.5%), and they were more likely to engage in socializing and communicating (45.6% versus 37.3%); reading (35.0% versus 27.7%); and civic, religious, organization or volunteer activities (9.1% versus 6.4%).

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