The future of leisure
We Germans should really have more leisure time than ever before. For one thing, since 1950, the average working week has been reduced from 48 to 38.4 hours; for another, over the same period, the amount of annual leave to which employees are entitled has increased from 9 to 30 days. Leisure research conducted by the Foundation for Future Studies shows, however, that – despite the objectively higher “leisure budget” – many German citizens subjectively feel that they have too little leisure time. The latest findings that the number of German citizens who complain about having too little leisure time is almost three times as high as the number of respondents who say that they have too much free time.
This core finding necessitates a change in behaviour, which will also be recognised increasingly in future: when time is short, the population responds pragmatically and reduces the duration of activities or combines various activities together. The fact that this fast pace of life often results in superficiality is accepted (as inevitable). At the same time, however, there is evidence of a renaissance in regenerative activities such as lazing about and doing nothing, sleeping in at the weekend or taking an afternoon nap during the week.
But apart from this, how do Germans actually spend their real leisure time, during which they are free to do what they want? In addition to staying in touch with family and friends and engaging in self-reflective activities such as “thinking”, our (leisure) routine is dominated primarily by the media. The 1980s established the groundwork for the following media decades. In the last three decades, media usage has accounted for a growing proportion of the leisure budget of German citizens – television in particular has become the medium of choice for Germans. With an average of 97 percent in weekly usage frequency, “watching television” has been at the forefront of the most popular leisure activities for decades. “Listening to the radio”, “reading the newspaper” and “talking on the phone” have also been in the top five leisure activities for a long time. Since the early 2000s, activities involving a personal computer and the associated Internet/e-mail usage have become much more important. Even if younger generations of digital natives currently tend to be the ones who use these forms of information and communication, the new media will be an even more dominant feature of the leisure market of tomorrow.