Balancing paid work, unpaid work and leisure
07/03/2014 - Greater gender equality in working hours is not just about more women in full-time employment. It is also about more men reducing their long hours in paid work. Although detailed information is available for a limited number of OECD countries, data on the usual hours worked per week illustrate how the prevalence of long and short working hours differs across countries and the sexes.
Among the sample of countries, the United Kingdom has the longest working hours culture: more than 20% of employed men usually work 40 to 50 hours per week and another 20% working more than 50 hours per week. In the Czech Republic, France and Poland, 20% of employed men also usually work for more than 50 hours per week, considerably more than in the other countries, including Germany, Hungary, Scandinavian countries and the Slovak Republic.
France and the United Kingdom are also the countries where most women usually work more than 40 hours per week (over 15%). At the same time, many British women work part-time, while the prevailing “35 hours working week” contributes to most women working less than 40 hours per week in France.
The forty hour working week is the overriding working hours’ pattern for both men and women in the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland and Hungary. In Finland, Norway and Sweden collective and/or sectoral agreements often lead to usual weekly working hours of around 37.5 hours per week. Indeed, the long working hours’ culture is not pervasive in Scandinavian countries, which contributes to the general perception in these countries that pursuing both active work- and family lives are compatible aspirations for both fathers and mothers.
The Distribution of usual hours worked among men and women in employment
Source: OECD Employment database
Over the last 50 years, women decreased their hours of unpaid work as they increased the hours of paid work. Men have been doing more housework and child care, but they didn’t take up the slack so gender inequalities in the use of time are still large in all countries. Turkish women spend the most time doing unpaid work, such as housework or shopping, at 377 minutes a day, followed by Mexican women at 373. This compares to their menfolk: Mexican men who spend an average of 113 minutes on unpaid work and Korean men who spend only 45 minutes, the least of all. If we look at the sum of paid and unpaid work, women work more than men (2.6 hours more per week on average across the OECD).
When it comes to time spent on personal care, including eating and sleeping, the gap between the sexes is much smaller. French women spend the most time in personal care, at 755, just ahead of Italian women at 697. Their men spend almost as much time (738) – just ahead of Italian males at 697.
Minutes per day
Source: OECD based on data from National Time Use Surveys.