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Understanding participatory time for groups at risk of social exclusion

Man at allotment
Published: January 2011


Understanding how people participate in society is central to the notion of social exclusion. Participation can help people fulfill the basic human need for a sense of worth and socialisation. Alongside work and education, participation can be achieved via activities such as volunteering, cultural and leisure activities, and civic engagement. Many people face barriers to taking up opportunities to participate in society, particularly people from disadvantaged groups. These barriers can include: low income, discrimination, older age, limiting health and disability, transport, access to and availability of services and time constraints.

This study explores how adults who work atypical hours and older people, are able to take part in sports, the arts and volunteering (‘participation activities’) that can promote social inclusion.


i) Participation time of atypical workers

Work at atypical times is the norm rather than the exception

Work at atypical times is now the norm rather than the exception. 66% of adults work at atypical times, while 33% work standard hours only (8am-7pm Mon-Fri).

  • 38% work mornings (5-8am);
  • 29% work evenings (7pm-midnight);
  • 9% work nights (midnight-5am);
  • 33% work Saturdays;
  • 24% work Sundays.

Evening and weekend workers spend less time on participation activities over the week

In general, the more hours worked at atypical times, the less time a person spends on participatory activities.

Atypical workers spend significantly less time on participatory activities over the week than those who work at standard times only (8hrs 15 mins on participation activities), particularly:

  • early morning workers (6hrs 43 mins);
  • evening workers (6hrs 43 mins);
  • Sunday workers (5hrs 03 mins).

Evening workers work longer hours, which cuts into their participation time

Evening workers work slightly longer hours than standard hour workers: 8hrs 37mins compared to 7hrs 42mins on a week day.

Evening workers disproportionately tend to work at weekends, when many standard hours workers spend time on participation activities.

ii) Participation time of older people

Older people living alone spend most of their time by themselves

Older people who live on their own spend the vast majority of their time alone: nearly 11 hours on a weekday and 10.5 hours at weekends (excluding sleep). But they are more likely than couples (and those that live with other people) to spend time with friends.

Spending time with friends is conducive to participation activity

Over one-third of the time older people spend with their friends is on participatory activities: most often social networking, followed by doing favours and religious activity.

Providing care, getting older and doing more essential activities all have a negative impact on social networking time

Caring for a sick, disabled or elderly person is associated with having less time to spend on social networking with friends than non-carers.

For every one hour spent on essential activities, older people spend 18 minutes less social networking with their friends and acquaintances.


Secondary analysis of data from the UK Time Use Survey 2000 (UKTUS)

Read the report