An examination of the characteristics and time use of those who have unfilled spare time

Jennifer Baxter

Leisure time, spare time, time use, diaries, life cycle

While the often-heard complaint about time today is that of having too much to do and too little time, there are those who experience the opposite: they have difficulty filling the spare time that they have. This spare time can for some include times perceived to be empty of satisfying activity, and instead be associated with feelings of dissatisfaction, with frustration and boredom, and with time being spent in unproductive or even unhealthy pursuits. This paper uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics 1997 and 2006 Time Use Surveys to examine the characteristics and time use patterns associated with reporting to frequently have spare time that is difficult to fill. These analyses take a life cycle perspective to determine which men and women are at greatest risk of having this experience of time. These findings indicate that while a minority of people experience unfilled spare time, it is more common among the youngest men and women, especially those living with their parents, as well as men living alone, men and women with limited commitments to paid work or to caring, and those with a health problem and with a non-English-language background. Examining the reasons given for having unfilled spare time, lack of money is the main reason given, however other reasons also apply, and reasons differ for particular groups of people. Ill health, transport, having no friends or family nearby and lack of community facilities are some of those reasons. These data were also related to the patterns of time use to better understand the implications of having unfilled spare time for individuals' wellbeing.