Living in France For Members

Work, sleep and lunch: What do the French do all day?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Work, sleep and lunch: What do the French do all day?
A waitress brings food to customers in a restaurant Quimper, western France. (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)

According to data from the OECD, French people spend a lot of time eating, drinking and sleeping - here are the stats for how the average French person breaks down their day.


The OECD collects all sorts of useful data - including a wide ranging international comparison on how 15-64-year-olds around the world prioritise their days - whether that is spending most of their time at work, spending hours every day eating or doing a large amount of voluntary work.

The data on France comes from a 2010 INSEE study titled "Time Use and Couples Decisions Survey". It is the fifth such survey to be conducted by INSEE since 1966, with the next scheduled to be published in 2025. The OECD has compared this data to similar national surveys carried out in its member countries to create international comparisons for daily activities.

Here's what they show;


According to OECD data, the average French person spends two hours and 11 minutes eating and drinking each day. This does not include time spent preparing meals or shopping for food, which is classified as 'routine work' under the category of 'unpaid work'. 

French people spent the most time eating and drinking out of all the OECD countries - Italy came in a narrow second, spending two hours and 5 minutes eating and drinking per day, while the USA came in last place, with Americans spending on average just one hour and one minute per day eating.

READ MORE: Revealed: How your food and drink habits change when you move to France

This might not come as a surprise to French residents, a country where a two-hour lunch break is normal for workers and where the pace of service in restaurants is deliberately leisurely (some would say slow) to prolong the pleasure of a nice meal with friends.



The French are well-rested, according to survey data, getting an average of 8 hours and 33 minutes of sleep per night - right in line with the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours a night.

Japanese people slept the least out of the OECD countries, getting on average one hour less of sleep than French people per night, for a total of seven hours and 28 minutes.

Combined the average French person spends 10 hours and 44 minutes out of the day eating and sleeping - not so bad! 


In total, the survey found that the average French person spent three hours and 24 minutes per day (including weekends) doing all types of paid work or study.

READ MORE: Reader Question: When does the working day start and end for French employees?

Just three hours and 24 minutes a day worth of paid work probably sounds a bit low - but it's important to note that this survey data covers a wide audience, including young people still studying and not yet employed, as well as unemployed people and stay-at home parents (typically mothers).

The data also includes pensioners as it surveys people aged between 15 and 64. In France the retirement age is 62, although that will gradually be increased to 64 from September 1st after president Emmanuel Macron forced through bitterly contested pension reforms.

This data is from 2010, with the comparison from the OECD having been published in 2015, well before the pension reform came into effect, and also includes people on 'special regimes' who were allowed to retire early - for example Metro drivers could retire from 52.

Compared to the average for OECD countries, which was four hours and 29 minutes, France was on the lower end of the spectrum for time spent working per day. This may also be due to the fact that when the data was collected, France's unemployment rate was lodged around 10 percent, higher than the 7.10 percent as of June 2023.

Japan, Mexico, and South Korea, came out on the higher end of the OECD spectrum working for six hours and three minutes, five hours and 49 minutes, and five hours and 44 minutes respectively.

Italy (two hours and 57 minutes) and Spain (three hours and 22 minutes) worked less than France on average per day, holding up the bottom of the OECD pack.

The United States (four hours and 49 minutes) and the United Kingdom (four hours and 22 minutes) hovered around the average amount of time spent working per day.


Despite coming near last for hours-worked per day, France has a 35-hour week that is in place for people employed full-time. This is not the maximum amount of time a person can work, but is the reference number for calculating overtime, or part-time job hours.

People who benefit from the 35-hour week might work longer (the typical working week for office employees is 40 hours) but they are entitled to time back in lieu - known as RTT days - for every hour they work over that 35-hour mark.

However, it's important to note that there are quite a lot of exceptions to the rule - certain professions are not covered by it (journalists for example - yes, obviously we checked that) and anyone who is at middle-manager level or above is also not covered. 

Here's a more detailed look at how the 35-hour week really works

Unpaid labour

When it comes to unpaid work, the average French person spent about three hours and one minute each day doing things like housework, childcare and eldercare.

But in reality, there is still a gender imbalance in place. On average, French women spent three hours and 44 minutes a day providing unpaid labour. In comparison, French men clocked two hours and 15 minutes.

This was particularly pronounced when it came to 'routine housework'. French men awarded an hour and 37 each day to activities like cleaning, preparing meals, laundry and other household management. In contrast, French women spent two hours and 37 minutes each day on such tasks.

However, Le Figaro reported that French men are starting to pick up the pace. When looking at the evolution between 1974 and 2010, French men spent 39 more minutes on 'domestic chores' like cooking, cleaning and caring for children.

Personal care time


The French have been given an unfair reputation of not bathing, but in reality the French spend a decent amount of time on their own personal care: 1 hour and 39 minutes a day on average.

READ MORE: OPINION: Please stop saying that French people smell - we do wash every day

That's not all spent in the shower, however, this category also includes time spent attending medical appointments, or a visit to the hairdresser, beautician or masseuse as well as travelling to personal care activities. 

In comparison, Americans and Brits spend 58 and 59 minutes on personal care time respectively. 



When compared to their European neighbours, the French are not quite as active, spending just 17 minutes a day on sport, even if daily life might involve more walking than it does for people in the United States for instance. The Nordic countries stood out for getting a lot of exercise each day. People in Finland reported spending an average of 39 minutes a day on sport, and Swedes reported 36 minutes.

A 2022 survey by Euronews found that 45 percent of French people said they "never play sports or exercise", with just eight percent claiming they exercise or play sports regularly. This trend was reversed for people in Finland, with only eight percent responding 'they never exercise'. 


French people do unwind in other ways though - survey respondents estimated that they spend two hours and five minutes each day watching television and another 52 minutes visiting or entertaining friends.


When it comes to other leisure activities, like hobbies, art and music, French people spent on average one hour and 38 minutes a day, the same as Brits. In contrast, Americans spent almost a half hour less than the French and British on leisure 

That being said, recent studies, like one by Vertigo Research in 2022, found that French people are spending more and more of their free time on screens, especially for young people. BFMTV reported that for 15 to 24 year olds, almost 40 percent is eaten up by two activities: social networking and video games. 

Religion and spirituality

When it comes to religious or spiritual activities, the French are not so bothered. The average person is estimated to spend under 15 minutes a week on religious obligations in France, considerably lower than the 26 minutes spent daily in Turkey. 

The journal Europe Now estimates that even though around 60 percent of French citizens still identify as Catholic in most surveys, just 15 percent consider themselves to be 'practising' and only 4.5 percent attend weekly mass.


Nevertheless, it is difficult to track religiosity in France, as the government does not collect such data due to the official state policy of secularism (laïcité).


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also