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Time use survey shows a more relaxed lifestyle in most, but not all, of regional Australia

Every 15 years, the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts a time use survey. Around 2000 households are given diaries to record how they spend their time.

The most recent survey has just been released and tracks the period from November 2020 to July 2021, a period in which many parts of Australia were in COVID-19 lockdowns.

The survey shows many things haven’t changed that much from the previous survey. Most of our days are spent sleeping, working and watching television.

Women do more unpaid work while men spend more time in paid work. Men spend more time eating while women spend more time in social interaction.

A comparison, however, between how people spend their time by location showed how much of a more relaxed lifestyle living in regional Australia provides but it depends on how remote.

There were three regions that the time use survey investigated. The first category of “major capital city” is self explanatory.

The second category of “inner regional areas” is defined as those areas where geographic distance imposes some restriction upon accessibility to the widest range of goods, services and opportunities for social interaction.

Generally these are regional areas close to capital cities such as Bendigo in Victoria or Wollongong in NSW.

The third category is “outer regional and remote areas” which is defined as those areas where geographic distance imposes a moderate or high restriction upon accessibility to the widest range of goods, services and opportunities for social interaction.

These areas would include Orange in NSW or Mackay in Queensland.

Based on the survey, people living in inner regional areas have the most free time in Australia, while those in outer regional and remote areas have the least.

City dwellers spent the most time working and the least time on personal care and domestic duties.

People in outer regional areas spent the most time on voluntary work while inner regional people spent the most on sport and recreation, as well as social and community activities.

The survey was undertaken during the pandemic and therefore all this free time in inner regional areas may just be a sign of that time.

Not having to go into the office saved a lot of time in commuting. If you lived in Geelong and worked in Melbourne, working from home would have given you an additional two hours a day.

With work from home reducing, it is likely that for many people, that travel would be back at least a few times a week. That would be less time for getting fit and spending time in the community.

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Nerida Conisbee

Nerida Conisbee is the Chief Economist at Ray White.