Time is one of the most essential influencer of our everyday life. Different from other resources, all the people have equally 24 hours during the day at their disposal, regardless of their income, education, marital status, gender or age. Although everyone has the equal amount of time, the time use and opportunities to choose likeable activities differs a lot by persons.

Studying the time use shows how the society has been built up and what kinds of relations predominate between its members. The activities of persons show their priorities and reflect everyday life. Time use characterises the participation in the labour market, consumption behaviour, spending of leisure time and family relations as well as changes in the household composition, people’s welfare and beliefs in the society. Besides paid work, observing the persons’ time use enables to determine the unpaid work made at home which is usually invisible.

Time Use Survey

The data on persons’ time use are collected with the Time Use Survey. In Estonia the Time Use Survey has been conducted twice, in 2000 and 2010.

The Time Use Survey is a multi-purpose survey which enables to provide an overview on the time use of people (paid work, housekeeping, leisure time, etc.) and on the differences of women’s and men’s time use. Additionally, the Time Use Survey enables to observe the time spent for travelling from one place to another, mode of travelling (on foot, by car, public transport, etc.), as well as about the location where time is spent. The survey enables to analyse communication with one’s family as well as between households and generations. Time use is one of the measures of welfare. Paid work is an inevitable part of a person’s life, but one cannot always choose it according to his/her preferences. That is the reason why welfare is estimated in the Time Use Survey according to the time spent on leisure and unpaid work.

The data of the survey are collected with the help of time use diaries. The respondents had to fill in the diary for their activities on one working day and on one weekend for 24 hours with the precision of 10 minutes.

Methodology of the Time Use Survey

In the Time Use Survey the time spent on primary activities or the activities that the persons have considered more important among the activities carried out at the same time. Some activities may be secondary, i.e. they can be done besides other things. More common secondary activities are several ways of spending leisure time (watching TV, listening to the radio and music, etc.), communicating with other people and household and family care (e.g. childcare). In 2010, people spent on childcare 11 minutes besides other activities, more than half an hour on watching TV on listening to the radio and music almost an hour and on communicating with other people over an hour a day.

While interpreting the data it must be kept in mind that different groups of people have been included in the survey – by different ages (since 10-year-olds), by social-economic status, type of household and education. The average time use of the day has been calculated for the whole year, including the working days and holidays. The time spent on activities is divided between all the persons included in the survey, regardless of the fact if they participated in these activities or not. This explains why the average time spent on paid work on a common working day is significantly shorter than expected.

The results of the Time Use Survey

In 2010, a person spent on an average 11 hours in a day for sleeping, eating and other personal activities, five and a half hours for leisure time, three and a half hours for household and family care and three hours for paid work. Compared to the previous survey, the duration of leisure time has changed the most. In 2010, the people have 40 minutes more leisure time in a day than ten years ago, but the time spent on paid work, household and family care has shortened. A great part of the leisure time is spent on the computer, the popularity of which has grown significantly during the ten years. The time spent on household and family care has shortened mostly because less time is spent on food management and care for textile.