South Africans sleep
(Getty Images)
  • South Africa tops the global charts for the amount of time spent sleeping and seeing friends, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
  • But South Africans’ average time spent shopping ranks as the lowest in the world.
  • Despite a dismally high unemployment rate, South Africa’s average daily work rate exceeds Italy, Spain, France, and Greece.
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South Africans have been ranked as the world’s biggest sleepers, averaging 553 minutes – or just over nine hours – of shut-eye every day. On the opposite end of the global scale, South Africans spend the least amount of time shopping, averaging just nine minutes of retail therapy a day.

Sleeping, eating, working and spending time with friends – prior to coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions – accounts for more than 60% of an average South Africans’ 24-hour say. This is according to the latest data released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has been ranked according to a global scale by Our World in Data.

The Time Use census, conducted annually among 34 countries since 2009, relies on government-supplied data and focuses on four primary categories, including how many minutes of the day are spent on paid work or study, unpaid work, personal care, and leisure.

These are further detailed according to subcategories including time spent attending events, caring for household members, eating or drinking, doing housework, seeing friends, shopping, sleeping, playing sport and watching TV or listening to the radio. Together with the OECD, Our World in Data plots global trends using statistics from the Centre for Time Use Research and the Penn World Table.

The latest report, published in December 2020, shows how South Africans spend their days in comparison to other countries and the global average. The average South African, between 16 and 64 years old, spends:

  • 553 minutes (9.3 hours or 38.7% of the day) sleeping
  • 189 minutes (3.15 hours or 13% of the day) working
  • 132 minutes (2.2 hours or 9.1% of the day) watching tv or listening to the radio
  • 130 minutes (2.1 hours or 8.7% of the day) doing housework
  • 82 minutes (1.3 hours or 5.4% of the day) seeing friends
  • 82 minutes (1.3 hours or 5.4% of the day) partaking in other leisure activities
  • 72 minutes (1.2 hours or 5% of the day) eating and drinking
  • 70 minutes (1.1 hours or 4.5% of the day) on personal care
  • 41 minutes (2.8% of the day) volunteering or doing unpaid work
  • 39 minutes (2.7% of the day) educating themselves
  • 18 minutes (1.25% of the day) caring for household members
  • 9 minutes (0.62% of the day) shopping
  • 5 minutes (0.34% of the day) attending events
  • 5 minutes (0.34% of the day) doing sport
South African time use
The average South Africans' daily use of time

It’s worth noting that South Africa’s burgeoning unemployment figures and comparatively low tertiary education involvement skews associated time allocations away from global trends in these two areas. Other time use patterns remain relatively stable and in-line with daily routines in other countries.

The data delivered by the OECD points to those who have fulltime jobs in South Africa as hard workers, outranking Italy, Spain, France, and Greece in terms of average hours spent working, despite the country holding the highest unemployment rate among all those surveyed. South Africans also spend a higher-than-average amount of time completing household chores.

Countries topping the list of average amount of time spent on various activities per day are noted as follows:

  • Paid work: Japan (236 minutes or 5.5 hours)
  • Education: South Korea (57 minutes)
  • Care for household members: Ireland (61 minutes)
  • Housework: Mexico (187 minutes or 3.1 hours)
  • Shopping: Germany (32 minutes)
  • Other unpaid work and volunteering: Japan (98 minutes or 1.5 hours)
  • Sleep: South Africa (553 minutes or 9.3 hours)
  • Eating: France (133 minutes or 2.2 hours)
  • Personal care: France (107 minutes or 1.7 hours)
  • Sports: Spain (42 minutes)
  • Attending events: Ireland (42 minutes)
  • Seeing friends: South Africa (82 minutes)
  • TV and Radio: US (148 minutes or 2.4 hours)
  • Other leisure (Religious/ civic duties, or unspecified): Norway (154 minutes or 2.5 hours)

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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