Ever More Leisure

When people around the world were hunters and gatherers, survival was a full-time occupation, and leisure time was virtually unknown. With the advent of agriculture and craft specialization leisure time slowly grew. When mass production and automation came along, recreation became serious business -- at least for the middle classes in developed countries. Some futurists predict the leisure, entertainment and hospitality industries will dominate other industries in the next millennium.

How technology and a changing lifestyle helped create leisure time:

In the next millennium, many everyday tasks will be performed by skilled professionals, including child care, home repair, home and garden maintenance, even shopping, which may be widely done electronically.

Here is a selection of inventions that saved time and made life easier:

Kitchen chores

1802: Gas cooking stove

1930: First supermarket

1930: Sliced bread

1939: Dishwasher

1945: Microwave oven

1954: TV dinner

1955: Non-stick saucepans

1973: Food processor

Laundry & clothing care

1819: Sewing machine

1849: Dry cleaning

1851: Commercial power laundry

1882: Electric iron

1893: Zipper

1924: Disposable handkerchiefs

1947: Automatic electric clothes washer

1948: Velcro fastener

1951: Disposable diapers

Household operation

1836: Safety match

1879: Incandescent electric lamp

1882: Electric fan

1887: Electric heating system

1901: Electric vacuum cleaner

1958: Power lawn mower

1970s: Personal computers

Personal hygiene

1778: Flush toilet

1920: Electric hair dryer

1928: Electric shaver patented

1961: Electric toothbrush

Other major reasons that leisure time

is growing in developed countries:

Couples have fewer children.

Workers spend fewer hours on the job; only about one-third of the hours a subsistence farmer works.

More vacations.

Earlier retirement; but retirement age expected to increase in the next millennium.


of time

spent for leisure

Before 10,000 BC

Virtually no leisure

10,000 BC


6000 BC -- AD 1500



18% -- 23%






50% leisure

SOURCES: Graham T.T. Molitor, World Future Society