Tuesdata: Time in with the telly, for 30 years and counting
Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Unmade, where we explore a new piece of data every week. We call it Tuesdata. You can probably work out why.
Today, we look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ annual Time Use Survey, which was released on Friday. Covering the Australian population over the age of 15, it offers some interesting, fresh data about media consumption. Further down, we’ll also cover yesterday’s movements on The Unmade Index.
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One of the great things about government funded data sets is that they go back a long way.
Take the Australian Bureau of Statistics’s Time Use Survey. It goes back several decades. You have to dig around to find the old stuff, as the ancient PDFs aren’t searchable. Even Google seems to have struggled to crawl them properly. But they’re there.
You can see this year’s on the ABS web site. Although the ABS sternly warns against directly comparing the data as sample sizes and methodologies evolve, the processes are close enough that I’m choosing to make those comparisons.
The set of data released on Friday covered what consumers were getting up to from November 2020 to July 2021. Those with a good memory may recall there was a bit of a coronavirus going around at the time .That’s one drawback in comparing trends. It’s fair to conclude that people were at home rather more than usual. Nonetheless, the data is interesting.
Further down, I’ll compare it to the same data of 30 years ago
The survey is conducted by asking a sample of just over 2,000 households around the country to complete a diary of their activities. The ended up collected data from 3,630 individuals, all aged over 15.
Statistically, that’s not a bad size sample. Usually 1,000 would do it.
One statistic stands out above all the others. Television dominates as the most popular free time activity the most recent survey. For how people spend their leisure time, television is still the daddy. And mummy.
After work, sleep and other commitments, people end up with an average of 5 hours, 27 minutes of daily free time.
According to the survey, on average 75.8% of men and 75% of women spent some of their free time watching TV or video. They spent an average of 2 hours 55 minutes doing so.
That was well ahead of the next most popular activity - labelled as “general internet and device use”. A Lot of doom scrolling during that period, if I recall correctly.
And, as you’ll see from the table above, audio was well behind TV. A total of 7.8% of men and 9.9% of women recorded themselves as listening to music, radio and podcast.
However, these statistics respond to the primary activity. So if somebody was driving themselves to work and happened to have the radio on, it wouldn’t be captured in this number.