LIFESTYLE
09/01/2018 17:08 SAST | Updated 09/01/2018 19:15 SAST

Men Enjoy 5 Hours More Leisure Time Than Women Each Week -- Here's Why

'A woman’s work is never done.'

If you’re a woman who feels exhausted by the end of the day, it could be down to the amount of unpaid work you’re completing. 

New statistics from ONS Digital reveal men in the UK enjoy nearly five hours extra leisure time per week compared to women.

In 2015, the average man took 43 hours of leisure time per week, whereas the average woman took around 38 hours.

While men are busy enjoying themselves, the data suggests women are losing those five hours because we’re picking up the brunt of “unpaid work”, such as household chores and childcare.

Tara Moore via Getty Images

The survey revealed both men and women are experiencing less leisure time than they were when a similar survey was conducted in 2000, but the gulf between the two genders is getting wider. 

The survey looked at how men and women’s time is divided in four categories: work, unpaid work, leisure and other.

For the purposes of the survey, ONS defined “unpaid work” as “anything households perform for themselves or other households as opposed to pay market services for”. This could include childcare, adult care for another relative, volunteering, cooking, cleaning, DIY, gardening, transporting themselves or others, or ironing and washing clothes. 

Activities listed as “other” in the table below include sleep, personal care or unclassified activity.

ONS

The latest survey does not include an exact breakdown of activities revealing what “unpaid work” women are completing.

But a previous ONS survey suggests childcare may be a major culprit, with statistics indicating a much higher proportion of women with dependent children work part-time, whereas a lower proportion of men with dependent children do the same

Siobhan Freegard, founder of parenting websites ChannelMum.com and Netmums, said there are three key reasons behind the fact women are still spending more time on childcare than men.

“Firstly, despite the move towards shared parental leave, women do the majority of the childcare in the early years. However this shouldn’t necessarily be judged negatively,” she told HuffPost UK.

“In many cases mum maybe breastfeeding or simply prioritises her baby over work or leisure time, and that choice should be respected.

“Secondly, the lack of suitable, flexible full-time work means more mums than dads go part time at work, with the bulk of the childcare then falling to them.

“And thirdly, women still bear both the mental and physical load on chores at home, from baby jobs to school admin. Some studies even suggest mums spend up to three hours a day just on child-related admin.”

Freegard said she’s heard “many conflicting arguments” as to why women pick up the most jobs around childcare, from “women being more capable at multitasking than men” to “men not being socialised to do it”.

“The fact it is still continuing means a woman’s work is never done, even in 2018,” she said.

The gloomy reality is if women worked out how much money they could earn by being paid for tasks currently classed as “unpaid work”, we’d all be a lot better off. 

ONS has created a tool that allows you to estimate how much you could be paid for doing these tasks (if you could only find someone to pay you), based on data on 2017 earnings.

 As well as completing practical household tasks such as the washing, women are stereotypically the ones responsible for jobs such as remembering family birthdays.

Sociologists have long noted women often also designate ourselves as the person to “keep the peace” and ensure happiness within a family - something that’s referred to as “emotional labour” or “emotional load” - meaning we feel unjust guilt when we “nag” a partner to do their fair share of chores. 

Dr Lisa Huebner, a sociologist of gender at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, has previously spoken about the topic and how it takes up women’s time and energy. She said emotional load stems from the stereotypical ways we’re taught to see men and women’s roles.

“In general, we gender emotions in our society by continuing to reinforce the false idea that women are always, naturally and biologically able to feel, express, and manage our emotions better than men,” she told Harpers Bazaar.

“This is not to say that some individuals do not manage emotion better than others as part of their own individual personality, but I would argue that we still have no firm evidence that this ability is biologically determined by sex.

“At the same time (and I would argue because it is not a natural difference) we find all kinds of ways in society to ensure that girls and women are responsible for emotions and, then, men get a pass.” 

The good news is Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eharmony, believes it is possible to redress the balance within your relationship is you’re finding unequal leisure time “demoralising”.

She said the best way to “avoid resentment building up is to have a tactful conversation” on the topic.

“Try to go in calmly, even if you do feel at boiling point,” she told HuffPost UK.

“Explain that because of your daily commitments it would be great if they could pitch in more a bit more on things that benefit you both as a couple. Give specific examples.

“Make sure you hear them out. There could be some unforeseen factors that have been holding them back, such as a lack of confidence in planning days out or perhaps cooking the evening meal.”

Relate counsellor, Rachel Davies added: “If you feel you’re doing more than your partner, it’s important to discuss it, otherwise this could cause resentment to build up. Let them know you’d like to talk to them and pick a time without distractions. 

“Explain the situation by saying something like ‘I feel as though I have less free time because a lot of my day is taken up with childcare and household chores.’  

“By saying ‘I feel’ you’re not presenting it as a fact or using blaming language. This means the conversation is less likely to result in conflict. Give them the chance to say their bit too – there may be things they’re doing which you aren’t noticing or taking into account. 

“Suggest each putting together a list of what you see as the 10 most important tasks that need doing including chores and childcare and record the estimated length of time they take and frequency. Go through the combined list of tasks and talk through the ones you’d like to take responsibility for, then share out the unpopular tasks. Once you’ve agreed on your responsibilities, you should find that leisure time is more evenly split.”