WHAT DO YOUNG SOUTH AFRICANS DO WITH THEIR TIME? I - WORKERS AND LEARNERS

Charles Simkins | Feb 14, 2017
This brief considers the patterns of time use among young people who are (1) working and (2) not working but undergoing education. A companion brief will consider the patterns among unemployed and not economically active young people.
A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated,
dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to seen in them
by the finest senses?  -  Walter Pater, 1873
 

Introduction

 
Until medical science finds ways of prolonging our lives to the point of utter tedium, time is the inescapably scarce resource.  For young people, the constructive use of time sets the stage for enjoyment of later life.  Aristotle observed that education is the best provision of old age, and work integrates us into society. So what do we know about how young South Africans spend their time?
 
Statistics South Africa has conducted two time use surveys, the second of which was taken in 2010.
Although the data are six years old, the current pattern of time use is not likely to have varied by much. The survey divides up the day into half hour time slots (with finer subdivisions when necessary) and it categorizes activity in each slot. Respondents were interviewed about their activities in a single day (with the day of the week recorded). In this brief, attention is limited to week days (Monday to Friday).
 

Analysis

 
For the purposes of analysis, young people are divided into four categories:
 
1. Those working
2. Those not working, but undergoing education
3. The unemployed (including discouraged workers) not undergoing education
4. The economically active not undergoing education
 
Table 1 sets out the average number of minutes per week day spent by workers and learners across the various types of activity. It shows that the average time at work is lower for women than for men, and the heavier burden of household maintenance and care of persons among women, resulting in less time spent on social and cultural activities. Those in education only spend more time on social and cultural activities than their working counterparts.
 
As the Parisians say about routine life, metro, boulot, dodo[1], and the average patterns for workers are probably not much different from patterns in other middle income or rich countries.
 

Table 1 - Youth in employment, education and training

Weekdays

Average minutes per day

 

Working

 

In education, not working

 

Men

Women

 

Men

Women

           

At work

378

328

 

0

0

Work-related travel

57

52

 

0

0

Educational activities[2]

22

15

 

325

314

Education-related travel

5

3

 

59

59

Household maintenance

65

147

 

72

120

Care of persons

3

31

 

2

15

Community service

3

4

 

1

1

Social and cultural activities

114

76

 

149

93

Mass media[3]

104

93

 

140

122

Sleeping and related activities

513

519

 

521

530

Other personal care[4]

172

164

 

171

168

           

Total

1436

1432

 

1440

1422

 
Note:  The minutes should add up to 1440. Rounding errors and occasional miscoding or missing data account for the discrepancies
 
But there are some points at a less aggregated level which deserve comment:
 
1. The average length of the working day varies geographically, as Table 2 shows. Noticeable is the shortness of the working day in establishments in tribal areas. The longest working days are in the rural formal (commercial farming) sector.
2. As Table 3 shows, 17% of men and 21% of women reported that, although they were employed, they did not work at all on the reference day. This could be because they were on leave, or ill, or because they work some of the days between Monday and Friday, but not all of them.  A further 29% of men and 35% of women reported working less than seven hours. On the other hand, 23% of men and 16% of women reported working nine hours or longer. Short working hours in the tribal areas are reflected in the fact that only 31% of men and 27% of women report working seven hours or more.
3. Educational activities in Table 1 include time spent on homework, non-formal education and work-related training, but one can identify the time spent at an educational institution.  More young people are in schools than other educational institutions up to age 22. The prescribed time per week of instruction in Grades 10, 11 and 12 is 27.5 hours, or 330 minutes per day. And this is time spent in the class room. Another 60 minutes should be added for breaks However, young people in this age range reported that they spent an average of 288 minutes at school if they attended it in their reference day, with 31% attending for 330 minutes or longer, and just 8% attending for 390 minutes or longer. 
 

Table 2[5]

Week days

Average minutes per day

       

Men

Work in

establishments

Primary

production

Work not in

establishments

       

Urban formal

394

3

20

Urban informal

367

15

26

Tribal

181

65

29

Rural formal

427

42

8

       

Women

Work in

establishments

Primary

production

Work not in

establishments

       

Urban formal

344

2

14

Urban informal

327

3

27

Tribal

155

55

25

Rural formal

400

17

8

 

Table 3

Work time distribution

Weekdays

Urban

formal

Urban

informal

Tribal

Rural

formal

All

           

Men

         

Zero

16,6%

17,0%

18,7%

7,7%

16,7%

Less than 7 hours

19,8%

21,5%

49,4%

18,0%

28,8%

7 hours to less than 9 hours

36,7%

33,4%

18,9%

36,6%

31,0%

9 hours or more

26,9%

28,1%

12,9%

37,7%

23,4%

Total

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

           

Women

         

Zero

19,4%

19,9%

25,3%

7,9%

20,6%

Less than 7 hours

29,0%

33,1%

47,5%

28,6%

34,6%

7 hours to less than 9 hours

34,4%

30,9%

17,4%

31,9%

29,1%

9 hours or more

17,2%

16,1%

9,8%

31,5%

15,7%

Total

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

 

Conclusion

 
At first sight, the average pattern of time use looks fairly standard for a middle income country.  But below the surface, there is great variation in the time spent in employment, with a standard work day of between seven and nine hours being far from the most common experience. The average time spent at school for young people between the ages of 15 and 22 is well below the norm for Grades 10 to 12 prescribed by the Department of Basic Education.
 
Charles Simkins
Head of Research
charles@hsf.org.za
 

NOTES:

[1] Train, work, sleep.
[2] Educational activities include school, college or university attendance, homework, studies and course review, additional study, non-formal education and courses, and work-related training
[3] Mass media refers overwhelmingly to watching television and videos and listening to the radio and music
[4] Other personal care consists mainly of eating and drinking, personal hygiene and health and rest and relaxation
[5] Work in establishments refers roughly to formal employment, and work outside them refers to informal employment.  Primary production refers to household production of predominantly agricultural goods