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The effect of geographical location on New Zealanders’ use of time: facts from the New Zealand Time Use Survey 2009/10

The 2009/10 Time Use Survey reveals that geographic location affects how New Zealanders aged 12 years and over (12+) spend their time. This fact sheet contains two types of geographic analysis: an urban versus rural comparison, and a regional comparison. All findings are based on primary activities only – a primary activity is the main activity a person is doing at any given time.

How does urban or rural location affect time-use patterns?

The majority of New Zealanders live in an urban centre, which is defined as a settlement with 1,000 people or more. At the time of the 2006 Census, just over 560,000 people (14 percent of the usually resident population) lived in rural areas with fewer than 1,000 people. While there are many similarities in how urban and rural New Zealanders spent their time in 2009/10, some notable differences emerged.

Graph, Average time spent on primary activities per day, by urban/rural location, 2009/10.  

Time spent on labour force activity varies by urban or rural location

Across all New Zealanders aged 12+, people from rural areas spent more time on labour force activity than urban people (3 hours, 40 minutes a day compared with 3 hours, 13 minutes). This was similar to results from the 1998/99 Time Use Survey, and is due to more rural people recording labour force activity on their diary days – 50 percent compared with 42 percent of urban people.

In contrast, when looking only at people who participated in labour force activity (those who recorded labour force activity on their diary days), urban people spent more time on this activity than rural people (7 hours, 44 minutes a day compared with 7 hours, 18 minutes).

Average time spent on labour force activity per day
By sex and urban / rural location
2009/10
Sex Location All people(1) Participants only(2) Participation rate (3)
(percent)
Average time
(hours and minutes)
Male Urban 4:07 8:16 50
Rural 4:58 8:29 58
Female Urban 2:23 7:00 34
Rural 2:23 5:40 42
All people Urban 3:13 7:44 42
Rural 3:40 7:18 50
1. Time is averaged over all diary days, including days on which people did not participate in labour force activity.
2. Time is averaged over diary days where people participated in labour force activity.
3. The total count of all diaries days where participation in labour force activity was recorded, divided by the total count of diary days.

On average, rural males spent more time on labour force activity each day than urban males (4 hours, 58 minutes compared with 4 hours, 7 minutes), a pattern also observed in 1998/99. This is mostly due to a difference in participation rates – 58 percent of rural males recorded labour force activity on their diary days compared with 50 percent of urban males. The time difference between urban male (8 hours, 16 minutes) and rural male (8 hours, 29 minutes) participants was not significant.

In 2009/10, rural and urban females spent the same amount of time on labour force activity a day (2 hours, 23 minutes). This is different from the pattern observed in 1998/99, where rural females spent more time on labour force activity (2 hours, 33 minutes) than their urban counterparts (2 hours, 13 minutes). However, in 2009/10, rural females had a higher labour force participation rate (42 percent) than urban females (34 percent) – when looking at participants only, urban females recorded almost 1.5 hours more labour force activity each day than females in rural areas.

Rural people spend more time on household work

Rural people spent about 30 minutes more on household work each day than urban people (2 hours, 32 minutes compared with 1 hour, 57 minutes). Rural females spent the most time on household work, averaging about 3 hours a day. This was 1 hour and 17 minutes more than rural males, and 44 minutes more than urban females. Rural females also had a higher participation rate for household work – 95 percent compared with 92 percent of urban females.

Average time spent on household work per day 
By sex and urban / rural location
2009/10
Sex Location All people(1) Participants only(2) Participation rate (3)
(percent)
Average time
(hours and minutes)
Male Urban 1:26 1:53 76
Rural 1:53 2:23 79
Female Urban 2:26 2:39 92
Rural 3:10 3:20 95
All people Urban 1:57 2:19 84
Rural 2:32 2:54 87
1. Time is averaged over all diary days, including days on which people did not participate in household work.
2. Time is averaged over diary days where people participated in household work.
3. The total count of all diaries days where participation in household work was recorded, divided by the total count of diary days.

Across all New Zealanders aged 12+, the average time spent each day on household work fell 9 minutes between 1998/99 and 2009/10. While urban and rural males spent a similar amount of time on household work in 1998/99 (about 1.5 hours a day), in 2009/10 rural males spent 27 minutes more than urban males. This was driven by urban males doing 8 minutes less household work each day in 2009/10 compared with 1998/99, while rural males did 22 minutes more. 

Urban people have more leisure time

On average, urban people spent 12 minutes more a day on social entertainment than people in rural areas. This was driven by urban males spending 20 minutes more on social entertainment each day than rural males (1 hour, 23 minutes compared with 1 hour, 3 minutes). The time difference between urban females (1 hour, 43 minutes) and rural females (1 hour, 38 minutes) was not significant.

People in urban areas also spent 23 minutes more a day on mass media activities, such as watching TV and reading. Urban males spent the most time on mass media activities (3 hours, 15 minutes), 31 minutes more than rural males, while urban females spent 16 minutes more on mass media activities than rural females (3 hours, 4 minutes compared with 2 hours, 48 minutes).

These two activity groups contributed to a 40-minutes-a-day difference in total leisure time between urban and rural people, similar to the 1998/99 finding. 

Average time spent on leisure activities per day
By urban / rural location
1998/99(1) and 2009/10

Survey period Location Mass media and free-time activities Social entertainment Sports and hobbies Religious, cultural, and civic activities(2) Total leisure time(3)
Average time
(hours and minutes)
2009/10 Urban 3:09 1:33 0:44 0:13 5:39
Rural 2:46 1:21 0:43 0:10 4:59
1998/99 Urban 3:12 1:30 0:45 0:10 5:37
Rural 2:38 1:23 0:43 0:06* 4:50
1. The activity data was concorded to allow comparisons between the 1998/99 and 2009/10 surveys.
2. Includes time spent filling in a time-use diary, which is a civic activity performed only by Time Use Survey respondents.
3. Due to rounding, individual figures may not sum to leisure activity totals.

Symbol:
* estimate has a relative sampling error between 30 and 50 percent and should be viewed with caution.

How does regional location affect time-use patterns?

The six regions discussed below are based on aggregated regional council areas (as pictured). The amount of time people spent on some types of activities differed between the regions.

Note: Northland group contains Northland, Bay of Plenty, and Gisborne.

Map, New Zealand Regional Areas.

People in the Auckland region spent less time on household work than people in other regions, but the same amount of time as those in the Wellington region (1 hour, 54 minutes). These two regions have the lowest proportion of people living in rural areas (less than 5 percent of residents), which might partly explain these results.

People in the Northland region spent significantly more time on household work than all other regions (2 hours, 16 minutes) except for the rest of the South Island (2 hours, 10 minutes). A contributing factor could be that these two regions have the highest proportion of people living in rural areas (more than 20 percent of residents).

People in the Auckland region spent more time on childcare activities each day (36 minutes) than people in Wellington and both South Island regions (between 28 and 30 minutes).

Across all regions, people spent similar amounts of time on labour force activity on an average day.

People in the Wellington and Canterbury regions spent about 15 minutes more a day doing mass media activities, such as watching TV, listening to music, and reading, than people in Auckland or the rest of the South Island regions (who spent about 3 hours each day).

Graph, Average time spent on primary activities per day, by region, 2009/10.  

Overall, the way that people from across New Zealand used their time in 2009/10 remained similar to 1998/99. However, a few changes occurred within the Auckland region and in the South Island across this 11-year period.

People living in Auckland region spent more time on primary childcare activities (up 6 minutes), purchasing goods and services (up 6 minutes), religious, cultural and civic activities (up 7 minutes) and social entertainment (up 10 minutes), but spent less time on household work (down 11 minutes).

People in the South Island, excluding Canterbury, also spent more time on primary childcare activities in 2009/10 (up 6 minutes), and an extra 25 minutes a day on labour force activity. Perhaps as a result, people in this region spent 10 minutes less a day on social entertainment activities.

Time Use Survey notes

Time-use statistics provide a unique perspective on people’s behaviour, standard of living, social roles, work-life balance, and social well-being, which is not readily apparent in conventional social and economic statistics.

Sample size: 8,522 respondents (1998/99) 
  9,159 respondents (2009/10)

Survey period:

1998/99 (July 1998 – June 1999)
  2009/10 (September 2009 – August 2010)

Mode:

48-hour self-report diary and face-to-face computer-assisted interview.

Respondents:

Up to two people per household, aged 12 years and over.

Note:

  • The 1998/99 and 2009/10 surveys are sample surveys and therefore estimates are subject to sampling error.
  • Some of the differences between regions can be attributed to variability in demographic composition – such as the age of residents, ethnic proportions, employment status, and family structure.
  • For further information about how New Zealanders use their time, or to learn more about the survey, see the Time Use Survey information release on Statistics NZ’s website.

 Published: 22 July 2011

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