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Closing The Gap

US women are working longer hours as their sleep and social lives suffer


U.S. women spent longer working, caring for their families and doing jobs around the house in 2018 than in previous years.

The pay-off? Their social lives, leisure time and even their sleep.

That's the conclusion of the annual American Time Use Survey, released Wednesday by the Labor Department.

Employed women worked approximately 7 hours and 20 minutes during the typical work day last year — the most time since the survey began in 2003.

Men, meanwhile, worked around 7 hours 54 minutes on the average work day, down from eight-and-a-half hours in 2017 and the lowest level since the Great Recession.

The research, which is based on ongoing interview surveys by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, points to a narrowing of the gap between the time spent on the job by working men and women.

That could be seen as a win for women's increased workplace participation. However, women's increased work hours were met by ongoing household obligations, which continue to disproportionately outweigh those of their male counterparts.

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Last year, working women spent about half-an-hour more per day on household chores, such as cooking and cleaning, compared to their male counterparts.

Working mothers also spent around two hours each day caring for their children — 15 minutes more than they did in 2017. Working fathers, on the other hand, typically spent less than an hour-and-a-half on child care in 2018.

Those pressures came at the expense of leisure time and sleep, the report found.

In 2018, the average working woman spent three hours 45 minutes each day relaxing or exercising, down from the previous year. Working mothers spent about 15 minutes less on such activities.

By contrast, working men allocated around four hours 40 minutes to leisure and sports, while fathers enjoyed about four hours downtime each day.

Employed women also saw their sleep slip slightly to more than eight-and-a-half hours in 2018 from a previous 2017 high of around eight hours 40 minutes. Meanwhile, the number of sleeping hours working men enjoyed has been up in recent years but still remains lower than women's — at around eight hours 20 minutes.

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