Longer work day cutting into family time: study

A study has found that workers spent an average of 45 minutes less time with family members in 2005 than they did 20 years earlier, saying "as work hours rise, family time falls."

"As work hours rise, family time falls."

That's the key conclusion of a study released Tuesday that shows workers spent an average of 45 minutes lessper daywith family members in 2005 than they did 20 years earlier.

The Statistics Canada study found that workers in 1986 spent on average 4.2 hours, or 250 minutes, per day doing activities with their family members. In 2005, that time had dropped to 3.4 hours, or 205 minutes, a decline of 45 minutes.

According to the study, entitled "Time spent with family during a typical workday, 1986 to 2005," the decline can clearly be attributed to more time spent in the workplace.

"In general, the more time spent in paid employment on a given day, the less time there is remaining to devote to family," Martin Turcotte, author of the study, writes. "However, other factors may considerably influence time with family members."

These factors include spending more time watching television alone, eating alone and spending less time on family meals, the study says.

Based ona 260-day work year, the decline in family time amounts to 195 fewer hours a year, or nearly five 40-hour work weeks.

Clarence Lochhead, executive director of the Vanier Institute of the Family in Ottawa, said the findings are not surprising. The institute promotes the well-being of families in Canada.

"There are considerable financial pressures on families. Levels of spending are on the increase. Levels of debt are higher. It's not surprising that we are spending more time at work," he told CBC News Online on Tuesday.

'Economic pressure'

"There is also ongoing economic pressure that is pushing us to spend a greater amount of time at work. There is a lot of talk about shortages of labour. There ispressure on retiring members of the baby boomer generation to keep working."

Lochhead said the study is timely, given the emphasison work and family balance in the workplace.

"It makes us ask important questions. Should we be concerned about this and does it matter? Yes, time matters. Families do all kinds of important things, including raising kids, looking after elderly people and nurturing relationships with the family," he said.

"If we are going to put pressure on people, then something has got to give. If what gives is family time, then we are looking at potentially serious issues."

Lochheadsaid the study does not say whether fewer hours spent on the family is damaging the family or how families themselves are compensating for the reduction in time during the work week.

He suggested that people may be trying to make up for lost time by devoting more time to their families on weekends.

However, Lochheadsaid, it must be remembered that there is an element of individual choice in spending more time at work than with family, and the study, above all else, shows that Canadian workers are committed to their jobs.

Length ofwork day expanding

On average, Canadians worked 536 minutes or 8.9 hours on a working day in 2005, an increase from 506 minutes or 8.4 hours 20 years earlier.

The study was put together using data from four cycles of the General Social Surveys on Time Use in 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2005. Respondents in the study had to work for at least three hours per working day, excluding commuting time, and had to live with a spouse and/or at least one child.

Time spent with the family included such activities as having dinner as a family, helping children with homework, and watching television with a spouse.

Time spent with family, however, depended on the makeup of the family.

The study found that workers with young children spend more time with their families and this finding was especially true of young female workers.

Younger children mean more family time

Itfound thatthe estimated time spent with family by workers with a child younger than five is much greater than that of workers who had a spouse but no children. Those with young children spent about one hour more with their families.

"In fact, when children, especially young children, are present, women spend significantly more time with family than men do," the study says.

Single parent workers with a young child spent the most time with family, but single parent workers with older children spent the least time with family.

The study found that workers who worked long hours spentrelatively littletime with their families.

For example, those who spent between nine and 10 hours a dayon paid employment spent 52 minutes a day less with their families than did those who worked seven to eight hours.

More people working longer hours

And it found that from 1986 to 2005, the average amount of time spent on paid employment on a typical working day grew substantially in Canada.

The proportion of workers who spent long hourson their paidemployment also grew. For example, in 1986, about 17 per cent of workers dedicated 10 hours or more to their work, and by 2005, this proportion had grown to 25 per cent.

According to the study, the increase in average number of hours spent at work during a working day is the main factor that resulted in the decrease in time spent with family over the 20-year time period, accounting for about 39 per cent of the decline. This factor played a greater role than all other factors.

The study saysthe decline in time spent with family was observed across many different groups of workers: men and women, workers living with a spouse only and those living with young children, workers with a college degree and workers who have not completed high school.

"The decrease in time spent with family members was widespread," the study says.

The study was published in Canadian Social Trends, a Statistics Canada publication that discussessocial, economic, and demographic changes affecting Canadians.