This project investigates the policy correlates of national differences in historical changes in 'time-budgets'. This work is a part of the ESRC-funded Developing the Centre for Time Use Research (grant RES-060-25-0037).
There has been considerable interest over recent years in the effects of distinct regime types, which might be expected to have common time use patterns, and therefore to produce consistent national groupings by time use. Preliminary work suggested that, on the contrary, consideration of various different aspects of daily life (eg employment, unpaid work, leisure consumption) in fact produce somewhat different groupings of countries, sometimes organised by geographical regions, sometimes reflecting systematic policy differences. A cross-national examination of differences in the time parents spend caring for children aged under five in Norway and Sweden based on HETUS data showed that even between countries customarily grouped together in regime-based analyses, variation in child care and parental leave policies can produce quite significant differences in the time both fathers and mothers spend in child care at different ages of children (Sullivan et al, under review).
However, contrasting Scandinavian countries with countries generally classified as representing the most different policy regime type—the UK and the USA—reveals how the absence of child care related policies has an effect on female employment for women with children below school age, but also and more strikingly that, in a cross-sectional comparison of these countries, the time parents spend in child care is greater where policies are less 'family friendly'! That social norms and externalities, rather than more obvious indicators of policy, may be of paramount importance is a conclusion supported in a series of papers by Sevilla-Sanz and others, which investigate the seeming paradox of the national-level relationship at the end of the 20th century observed in OECD countries between traditional household ideologies and 'low low' fertility (Delaat and Sevilla-Sanz, under review; Gimenez et al 2007).
These findings have led to the development of a new initiative. Recognising that an adequate analysis of the MTUS requires an understanding of changes in public policy at the national level, we have started the construction of a cross-national policy-change data base (building on the more static materials developed for the Luxembourg Income Study), initially including measures of parental and child care policies intended to be used alongside time use data in multilevel models of child care and related activities.