A Global Look At How People Spend Their Time (Spoiler Alert: Sleeping Mostly!)

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but, as Visual Capitalist’s Iman Ghosh details below, we don’t spend them the same way. Some prioritize family time or household chores, while others cherish a good night’s sleep or seeing friends.

This chart from Our World in Data compares the average time allocated across various day-to-day activities, from paid work to leisurely activities.

The data for the 33 countries profiled come from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Time Use database, for ages 15 through 64 years old.

Countries with the Highest Time Spent Per Activity

As the chart shows, basic patterns—work, rest, and play—emerge across the board.

When it comes to paid work, Japan emerges the highest on this list with approximately 6.5 hours per day. However, this country also has some of the highest overtime in a workweek. In contrast, European countries such as France and Spain report nearly half the same hours (less than 3 hours) of paid work per day on average.

Certain trends, however, transcend cultural boundaries. Those in Mexico find themselves spending significant portions of the day (3 hours or more) on housework, as do those in Portugal.

As the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In the realm of leisure activities, those in the U.S. spend approximately 2.5 hours consuming media in a day, a number that has risen even higher during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, another interesting cultural pattern is that people in France spend the most time eating, approximately 2 hours per day. These durations are similar to those in other Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain—perhaps because meals are viewed as a social activity in these cultures.

Gender Disparities in Time Spent

Digging deeper, another way to look at how people spend their time globally is through the lens of gender.

Women spend nearly three times more in unpaid care work compared to men—a whopping total of 1.1 trillion hours each year—which means a lot less leisure time. This inequality is clearly defined by country in the following scatterplot:

In Norway, both men and women have equally high levels of leisure time—though it’s a rare example of such a case.

Meanwhile, in countries like India or China, significant gender gaps prevent women from moving up the socioeconomic ladder, potentially costing trillions of dollars to the global economy.

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