Estonian women gained most free time in 20 years at expense of home cooking

In 1995, women spent an average of 95 minutes per day preparing food, but according to the most recent Time Use Survey, this time has decreased to 57 minutes.
In 1995, women spent an average of 95 minutes per day preparing food, but according to the most recent Time Use Survey, this time has decreased to 57 minutes. Source: Alyson McPhee/Unsplash

In Estonia, men and women work fairly equally, but there has historically been a large disparity in domestic work, to the detriment of women. Nevertheless, in recent years there has been a rebalancing of the total amount of work performed by women and men. This is in part due to the fact that women now devote less time to household tasks than they once did.

In many countries, the distribution of time to various types of work varies by gender. Men devote more time to paid work on average, while women contribute more to household maintenance and childcare. On the Statistics Estonia blog, lead analyst Marin Tasuja explains that combining the time spent on paid and unpaid work provides a good overview of the total workload of women and men.

Historically, women spent more time each day on various sorts of tasks than men, who had about an hour more spare time per day.

Nevertheless, according to the 2019-2021 Time Use Survey, the total amount of time worked by women and men has leveled off over the past decade, with women spending only nine minutes per day more than men on work.

This is mostly because women spend approximately 50 minutes less every day on housework and family than they did in the past.

Despite the fact that men and women spend now nearly equal amounts of time at various tasks, women still spend roughly one-third more time on housework and family than men.

Main gain from cooking and tidying up clothes

What tasks have provided women with greater leisure time? Initially, the most notable reduction has been in cooking time. In contrast to ten years ago, when women spent an average of 78 minutes a day preparing food, this time has decreased to 57 minutes, the most recent Time Use Survey shows.

This is almost certainly due to the increased availability of semi-prepared foods in supermarkets, the proliferation of quick and easy recipes and the services of food couriers.

Another significant time saver has been laundry, drying, ironing and clothes repair services. For example, it used to take women 32 minutes a day but now it only takes seven minutes. This is most likely due to technological advances and increased service availability.

Men's and women's work

While women spend more time than men on a large proportion of household chores, such as cooking, childcare, gardening, pet care, cleaning and shopping, men have historically dominated construction and repair work. According to the survey, men spent an average of 14 minutes per day on this, while women spent one minute per day.

However, men's lives have become easier in this regard in comparison to the past; 20 years ago, men spent 25 minutes per day on repair and construction.

The smallest differences in time spent by men and women are related to household and family-related activities, managing a household and caring for another adult, all of which have remained relatively constant over the last few decades.


The statistics in this article are taken from the 2019-2021 Time Use Survey; the survey is carried out every ten years.

The analysis is based on data from the Estonian Time Use Survey from 1999 to 2000, 2009 to 2010, and 2019 to 2021. Only time spent on main activities, i.e. those that people deemed more important for themselves among multiple concurrent activities, was examined.

The survey included individuals of different ages (beginning at ten years old), socioeconomic status, household type and education. The average daily time use is calculated for the whole year, including both working days and holidays.

The time spent on activities includes all survey respondents, regardless of whether they engaged in the activity. This explains why, for instance, the average time spent on paid employment is far less than would be expected for a person working a standard workday. Therefore, the average time estimate is a combination of the amount of time spent on an activity and the proportion of persons involved.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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