How do men and women spend their time?

Hey, this is Edurne (aka Eddie). At Datawrapper, you can usually find me answering your questions to, posting on our TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn, and giving training sessions. A few weeks ago, I read a newsletter from Women In Economics and Public Policy where they discussed the differences in time use between men and women. This week, I want to dive deeper into this topic.

While significant progress has been made in the past decades towards women’s equality, inequalities remain in time use. Women spend more time than men doing unpaid work  including housework, shopping, and caring for household members and less time doing paid work, according to several studies.

The evidence suggests that this imbalance is the consequence of gender norms and stereotypes. For example, some countries still maintain traditional views about women, and they’re often discouraged to join the labor market. Lifetime events can also have an influence. Women work even more unpaid hours after getting married or having children  for men, these events generally don’t affect their careers or can even benefit them. Parental leave conditions can also help or hinder gender equality[1].

To better understand this issue, let’s look at three countries — Sweden, India, and the United States — to see how men and women use their time in each of them.

Although the countries analyzed in the chart above are all very different, women spend more time than men doing unpaid chores in all three of them. This difference in time use is narrower in Sweden while very extreme in India. That said, the average of these three countries matches the one of the OECD Time Use Database, according to which women work 2.5h/day more than men doing unpaid tasks.

Can you trust these numbers?

It might seem hard to believe that scientists can measure how we spend every hour of the day. But the OECD, who collected the numbers from the chart above, says that most time-use datasets “are large enough to generate reliable measures of time allocation over the full year”. However, the survey questions, population samples, and methods to compute the estimates are different in each country, which makes these figures hard to compare. Take them with a pinch of salt.

So what can this data tell us? The World Bank has an excellent answer to this one: even if collecting time use data is challenging and costly, the results are a good indicator of wellbeing. “It can improve our understanding of how people make decisions about time, and expand our knowledge of wellbeing,” they explain. The results are also relevant for policymakers in charge of narrowing the gap in time use.

Did COVID-19 change anything?

COVID-19 has changed how everyone spends their time. In his latest Weekly Chart, our software engineer Simon was surprised when calculating the time he saved because he hasn’t commuted to the office since the start of the pandemic. Jakub, also a Datawrapper software engineer, explained how the lack of typical leisure-time activities led to a rise in household savings.

In terms of gender, a recent study shows that women — especially mothers— spent more time than men on unpaid work. This research reveals that the time-use differences between men and women also persisted during the pandemic. Although many households had both partners working from home, this didn’t reduce the gender gap in time use.

Thanks for reading! If you know of resources on how gender norms and roles affect our time use, don’t hesitate to send them my way at As always, you can also reach out if you have questions or suggestions. Next week, it’s our CTO Gregor’s turn to write his Weekly Chart—I’m looking forward to seeing what he creates!


The Women in Economics and Public Policy newsletter was a big inspiration for this blog post. If you are not subscribed already, I would recommend checking it out! These are some of my favorite articles they shared:

And here some interesting datasets:

  1. The European Institute for Gender Equality states that the negative impact of parenthood on women’s employment is due to their “disproportionate take-up of care duties and career breaks”. If more fathers decide to take parental leave and stay at home with the children during the first year, this would positively affect gender equality and the inclusion of women in the labor market. ↩︎