1 Introduction

This report describes the way that time was spent in Scotland in 2023, with a focus on analysis by sex. Time use is discussed based on the overarching categories of free time, paid work, personal care, unpaid work. This publication is part of the collection on Time Use in Scotland and follows up on a previous report utilising 2020 Online Time Use Survey (OTUS) data published in September 2023. The OTUS 2020 looked at how time was spent in Scotland during the COVID-19 lockdown and how this time differed by a number of equality characteristics, including sex (Time Use in Scotland 2020). The current publication provides important insight in how women and men in Scotland spent their time following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key findings on the differences between men and women outlined in OTUS 2020 were that men spent longer in paid work, while women spent more time in unpaid work, in particular housework/cooking. Women also spent longer in leisure/social activities, while men spent longer on other leisure activities.

It must be noted, however, that OTUS 2023 uses confidence intervals to estimate significant differences, while OTUS 2020 used a statistical test. Therefore, readers are advised that the trends in the current report are not directly comparable to trends in previous iterations and caution must be exercised when interpreting the results in a wider context.

The OTUS 2023 utilised pre-coded activity options, allowing respondents to select the relevant activity from an activity list rather than completing time use diaries in their own words. These activities included paid work, unpaid work, free time, personal care. Paid work is a combination of working away from home and working from home for monetary reward. Unpaid work is a combined variable, which incorporates a range of other activities which are also reported on separately within this study. The seven components of unpaid work are: housework/cooking, travel, household management, developmental childcare, non-developmental childcare, study and other unpaid work. Free time is made up of a range of social, leisure, cultural and entertainment activities. Personal care includes personal fitness and other personal care, such as eating, snacking and drinking; showering and getting ready, as well as sleeping.

Further details about the OTUS 2023 design can be found in the about these statistics chapter of this report.

Respondents recorded their activities at ten minute intervals in time use diaries provided by the researchers. They were asked to provide completed diaries on two pre-allocated diary days which included one weekday and one weekend day. Throughout this report, time is reported in average (mean) hours and minutes per day. These averages are useful as they give a good indication of a group’s time taken up by a type of activity, but it should be recognised that this average will include people that do not engage in certain types of activities on a given day. For example, childcare when averaged across the sample will include people who do not have children. Therefore, average time use should not be confused with the average amount of time taken to do an activity, as there are differences between the two definitions.

Average time use depends on two factors: the number of people participating in an activity on a given day and the amount of time spent participating in that activity. These factors are combined to give a figure for average time use for the population group. Activities that everyone participates in for a short time may look similar to activities that are very time consuming for a smaller sub-group of people. This is why for relevant activities (childcare, paid work and study) it is important to consider time use amongst only the proportion of the sample taking part in the activity, rather than the whole sample.

In this publication, where relevant, the percentage of diary days where the activity took place is reported as well as average time spent on an activity. This is a useful measurement as it can serve to show how patterns in time use differ between people.

Only statistically significant differences have been discussed in this report. ‘Significant’ differences refer to differences between two groups which are statistically significant and is not intended to imply substantive importance. This publication uses confidence intervals to estimate whether differences between groups are significant (see about these statistics for more details). Comparing time use in this way provides a powerful descriptive tool for analysing how time use differs between groups within the population. While this report does not offer an interpretation of why these differences in time use emerge, it provides a framework for informing future analysis and indicates directions for further research. Where a finding is not statistically significant, it does not necessarily mean that there is no relationship present and should not be interpreted as evidence that time use on a relevant activity was equal between groups. Rather, it should be seen as an area for further research, especially given the relatively small Scottish sample size for the OTUS 2023.