Chapter 22: Working time and time for living

The importance of time as a measure for socioeconomic reporting results from the fact that time encompasses all spheres of life: work in the profession and in the household, spare time, family life etc. In the research on social time (e.g. in studies about working time, leisure, family, course of life etc.) the individual spheres are integrated. The sociology of time searches for patterns of the social and individual handling of time.

Theoretical basis for the analysis of time is: the state of research on everyday life as well as economic and sociological theories regarding time distribution, time utilisation and time sovereignty. Time culture means concepts, values and norms of time which react towards the material conditions of time formation and influence them. What current sociological time research calls time structure are on the one hand institutional guidelines for the utilisation of time (temporal patterns of regulation) and structuring meso or macro patterns of time utilisation (e.g. communal or national time structures) on the other. Time sovereignty (according to Terriet) designates the individual capability to quantitative and qualitative self-determination of one’s own time structures in daily life.


Time utilisation by the total population

Input-output tables in time units can be used as a concept of accounting for the total population’s time utilisation. It was developed by C. Stahmer at the Federal Statistical Office as one of the three pillars of socioeconomic reporting. A representation in this form is to show by means of received and performed times of activity by different age groups the magnitudes in which time is spread over professional and non-professional activities (personal activities, qualifications, household and artisan activities, childcare, care of adults).


Working time regime

In modern working societies, working time dictates the beat and sets the rhythm of social life: The standardisation of the working day, the workweek, the man-year and of working life as a whole have created the most important time institutions. Therefore, the observation of partially fundamental changes in the working time regime regarding the regulation of working time as well as the form of regulation itself takes centre stage. Moreover, one has to ask for the determinants resp. ‘driving forces’ behind these changes in time structures.

  • Working time is regulated by the welfare state: Besides the immediate catalogue of regulation concerning the duration and distribution of working time or operating times, one also has to take into account: opening clauses in wage agreements, regulations concerning project work, target agreements etc. as well as changes of shop opening hours, promotion of part-time work and mini-jobs. These regulations provide the legal and regulative framework for the development of working time.
  • Besides regulation, the focus will be on the observation of factual working time structures, especially the factors shaping normal working hours. Within this context the epistemological value of typing flexible working hours has to be critically investigated. Possible features of such a typification are the length of time worked, its distribution over the day, week and year, as well as the degree of influence or control by employees and superiors (overtime regulations, limitations by corridors, possible material effects, effectiveness of employment).
  • A further field of observation results from the trend towards polarising and differentiated working times. Especially along the axis gender, qualification, nationality working times are differentiating themselves; differentiations within this group have to be investigated, too.
  • The increasing differentiation between contracted, factual and desired working times, already discussed in the first report, shall be updated and related towards the employment arrangements of households.
  • As far as the utilisation of working time is concerned, there is growing evidence for an intensification taking place, i.e. more is being accomplished within the same time. It is one of this chapter’s tasks to observe this at the different macro, meso and micro levels and to develop suitable indicators for reporting on labour intensity. Apart from overall (labour productivity) or industry-specific key figures (e.g. turnover or space productivity in trade), one also has to consult and contrast with each other operational investigations and measurements of the subjective perception of work intensity.



Time utilisation in the household context

The observation of time utilisation in the household and family context ties on the development of employment times. However, what is taking centre stage now are not primarily individual working times, but rather the employment arrangements negotiated and shaped in the household and family context.

The first point of interest here are the life style determinants which contribute to the success of stable and subjectively desired arrangements. Employment arrangements result from complex negotiating processes. They are flanked by formal and informal settings (e.g. family and neighbourhood networks, care institutions, etc.). This chapter aims to identify these and other determinants of success.

We will also have to determine the influence exercised by the factual employment arrangements in the household and family context. Time and activity patterns of couples come into focus here in order to e.g. evaluate the impact of partner employment on the time being spent on household work and care as well as on the disposable time.

Finally, factual time utilisation will be contrasted with subjective desires. We proceed from the assumption that under the present power relations and governance structures, individual time preferences and factual patterns of time utilisation are always overlaid by income pressures and family obligations. They cannot be considered separately from social and gender-specific inequality. Against this backdrop, the factual time and activity patterns are not necessarily those desired. Shortage of time and lacking time autonomy can represent load factors which impair the possibilities of social participation. To identify these desires and pressures regarding time utilisation is also one of this chapter’s tasks.


Results (German)
Vortrag "Erwerbs- und Zeitmuster in der sozioökonomischen Berichterstattung" bei der Konferenz FoDaSt am 2./3. April 2008 in Hannover PDF
Gwozdz, Wencke/Bietz, Sabine (2007): Expertise "Zeitstrukturen - Zur Arbeit mit den Zeitbudget-Daten des Statistischen Bundesamts". soeb-Arbeitspapier 2007-2. PDF
Documents (German)
Hacket, Anne: Beschreibung der unterschiedlichen Indikatoren PDF

Responsibility for this chapter

Institut für Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung (ISF München)