What is Time-Use Data?

#MakingWorkVisible is all about highlighting the unpaid and invisible work done by women around Scotland. One thing we are calling for is better gender- disaggregated time-use survey data in Scotland that will tell us more about how men and women spend their time, including on leisure and unpaid work. So we spoke to Emanuella about her work on time-use data.

Hi Emanuella, can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on time-use data?

I’m Emanuella and last October I left my home country of Denmark to start a PHD at GCU in feminist economics. My motivation to do a PHD in this field stems from twelve years spent in Asia and Mexico working in development and humanitarian aid. Those experiences gave me an understanding of the world of women’s work in the global south; work which is mostly atypical, informal, subsistence, unpaid and undervalued. One of the many reasons this pattern persists is because in most countries women’s vital caring work and sustaining services are not recorded in the statistics of national accounts as inputs into the national economy and measures of GDP. This is also true for Scotland and part of my research aims to bring some visibility to women's work by designing a gender aware, evidence-based smartphone application for recording time-use data.

What is time-use data?

Time-use data is a detailed record of how someone spends their time during a typical day, including what type of activities they do and how much time is spent on each activity. National surveys of time-use usually ask individuals to keep a 24 hour diary and every 15-30 minutes they list all the activities they are doing at that moment. This might sound like a tedious diary to fill out, and it is because most of us multitask several activities at once. But if this diary is filled out a few times a year (i.e. during holidays, weekends, working days) it provides researchers with a basic description of that persons “daily life” including how much time was spent on paid work, unpaid work, leisure, sleep and personal care etc.

Why is it important that it’s gathered, and if so much women’s work is invisible, how can we record it?

Time-use data is a simple but powerful way to track patterns of gender inequality which are often invisible to society and policy makers. A key pattern it captures is the extent of unpaid work - including care work and domestic work- that women are primarily responsible for on a daily basis. Diary records show that women disproportionately juggle a “double shift” of paid work at their jobs and unpaid work at home. A lengthy workday means women more than men tend to experience “time poverty” with less free time available for activities which are vital to their own well-being (i.e. leisure, fitness, personal care, education, political engagement and such). Time-use surveys also record important contextual information such as the household structure, occupation, age, geographical location, socio-economic background, disability, and ethnicity. Together this data is important evidence for policymakers to consider when designing the placement of care services and investment in social policy because it shows which specific groups of women or men are more affected by time-poverty.​

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