According to time-use surveys, Norwegians, who have the highest net national incomes among the OECD countries studied, spend more than 2,300 hours a year in leisure activities, which could include anything from watching television to white-water rafting.
On the other extreme, Mexicans, whose average annual income is about US$ 10,000, report spending 1,000 hours a year less in relaxing pursuits than their Norwegian counterparts, which is the lowest in the chart.
While those with higher incomes have come to expect-and demand-more time for leisure, the amount of time spent relaxing is also determined by national character. For example, Belgians and Germans earn only slightly more than their Japanese counterparts, but spend nearly 50% more time at leisure. Curiously, the French, who are known for their joie de vivre, are firmly in the average when it comes to time spent on leisure activities-although Society at a Glance does find that French people spend slightly more time sleeping, eating and drinking than any other OECD country.
What may be somewhat surprising is that in nearly every country surveyed, people spend more time watching television or listening to the radio at home than they do entertaining friends, attending cultural events or playing sports. As the global economic crisis hits incomes, relaxing at home might become even more popular than before. Society at a Glance 2009: OECD Social Indicators, available at www.oecd.org/bookshop
©OECD Observer No 273, June 2009