Basing his analysis on surveys of time-use in France, Alain Chenu discusses the main trends in the use of time by people aged between 18 and 64 and living in urban areas over the period 1974-1999.
In essence, he shows that while half the day is spent on satisfying physiological needs, the other half is devoted to work (either in jobs or in education) -where the amount of time has fallen sharply, especially between 1974 and 1986- and to leisure, which has tended to increase. Chenu points out, however, that there is a clear difference between the sexes, although that is diminishing: in 1974, women spent three times longer on domestic tasks than men, whereas in 1998 they spent just under twice as much time; in 1974, men were responsible for 80 % more of paid work than women, but by 1998 this had fallen to around 50 %.
Chenu then examines the data broken down into more detailed categories and finds that some major changes have been observed: a fall in the time spent sewing, washing and dressing, cooking and looking after children, etc. By contrast, more time is spent on do-it-yourself tasks in the home, gardening and shopping, with (once again) obvious differences between men and women.
Lastly, Chenu notes how the way French people spend their time varies depending on their level of education and their income. This analysis reveals a quite sharp distinction between highly qualified people who are working harder and harder and the unskilled, who enjoy more leisure time but spend it in mostly passive ways, such as watching television.