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Home > Media

Surveyjism: A Nation of Domestic Cleaners

22 July 2006

Here's a question: who the fuck does 142 minutes of housework a day, apart from a full-time (if rather lazy) cleaner? Because this is the amount of time that the average Brit spends doing housework, according to a new survey. Maybe we're missing something, but 142 minutes is almost *two-and-a-half hours*. How long does it take to do the washing up, push the Hoover round a bit, stick some bleach in the toilet and take the rubbish out? Not that long, surely. Or maybe millions of our fellow citizens are cleaning their homes with a stylus brush?

An alternative explanation is that the survey, like so many before it, is bollocks. The survey, by the Office for National Statistics, was obviously compiled with an eye on releasing the findings to the media, being based on the news-friendly idea of 'a typical day in the life of the average Brit'. A representative sample of nearly 5,000 people was asked to record exactly how they spent their day. With a large sample of willing participants, you'd think the survey could provide a useful insight into contemporary life. You'd be wrong. The first indicator that the survey might be a bit useless was the startling finding that the average Brit spends just under three hours in paid employment every day. You've probably already guessed how they arrived at this bizarre figure - yup, by averaging things out.

You don't have to be a statistical genius to realise that averaging out the total amount of time that people spend working across the whole population tells us precisely fuck all about anything. You might as well average out the number of murders across the entire population, throwing up the shocking finding that we all murder 0.000015 people a day, or whatever.

Other findings are equally skewed. Apparently we all spend 14 minutes a day studying. Bizarrely, the survey points out that this is two minutes less than in 2000. Shit, is that going to affect the non-existent grades in the non-existent GCSEs, A-levels and degrees that most of us aren't studying for? Most baffling, considering the survey is so vague anyway, was the inclusion of a category called simply 'Other'. We Brits spend 14 minutes a day doing 'Other' - that's five extra minutes of 'Other' compared with 2000. What is this mysterious 'Other'? We think it's 'tearing gold teeth from the mouths of corpses', but that might just be us.

So does the survey tell us anything useful? The answer is 'yes' if you've got an axe to grind about those most feckless of scum: working mothers. Some of the papers picked up on the 'fact' that working parents spend just 19 minutes a day looking after their children. Certain papers contrasted the 19 minutes with the 58 minutes that the children of full-time mothers and fathers get. To cut to the chase: working mothers are evil and are breeding the next generation of criminals. There. We've said it. Now you don't need to spend 45p on The Daily Mail. (The Mail, it is worth noting, still fails to offer a solution to this, one of its favourite bugbears - it doesn't suggest shorter or more flexible working hours, enshrined in law, but we suppose that would mean one less thing for the Mail to hate a blameless group of people over, which would never do.)

The only really notable thing about the survey was the entirely believable claim that we spend 157 minutes a day enjoying 'home entertainment', which sounds susp iciously like 'watching TV'. However, we do spend 24 minutes a day reading, which is actually quite a lot, although it probably breaks down as:

13 minutes: 'Heat' magazine

10 minutes 59 seconds: Chris Ryan novels

1 second: Tolstoy

So, another day, another survey. All in all, the survey is pretty much par for the course: the findings seem either at odds with common sense (like the survey that claimed one in four children have been abused), or are so blindingly obvious ('people watch a lot of TV') that there wasn't much point in investigating the matter in the first place. And sadly the survey demurred from asking people stuff that would genuinely be of interest. How long they spent wanking, for instance. Or committing criminal acts. Or collecting weeping Pierrot dolls. Thus we at TFT decided to conduct our own survey based purely on our own habits. This, we discovered, is how people *really* spend the average day:

63 minutes: hitting the 'snooze' button on your alarm clock in the morning, rather than just setting the alarm an hour later, ensuring that you get a vital 63 minutes of fragmented sleep that leaves you feeling more tired than if you'd just got up in the first place.

99 minutes: getting to and from work. Coincidentally, the average person also spends 99 minutes staring out of the window of a packed commuter train in an existential panic wondering, 'What the fuck am I doing with my life?'

181 minutes: thinking about doing stuff.

21 minutes: actually doing stuff.

215 minutes: going for a quick drink after work that culminates in in a state of hog-whimpering drunkness by 11.30pm, forcing you to shell out a small fortune for a taxi and leaving you with a wretched hangover the next day, which in turn forces you to go for a 'hair of the dog' after work, thus starting the whole grisly cycle all over again.

340 minutes: pondering truly pointless questions, e.g.

- Could a group of mice defeat a cat if they were armed with spears?

- Should it be against the law for a paedophile to create a disturbing image in Microsoft Paint?

- Does Keira Knightley become less annoying with her clothes off?

- Will there ever be a new series of 'The Three Robonic Stooges'?

- If you set an iPod to shuffle in the woods, does it play the Kaiser Chiefs?

- What *does* WAWIBF stand for?

- Won't somebody think of the Lebanese children?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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