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For this week, we shall look into leisure as an indicator of quality of life, of living in relation to GDP.

Before we go into the relationship between leisure and GDP, we have to understand at least in basics the fact of leisure in one’s life. What do we make of the word leisure; in other words, what is leisure. Leisure as it is a very complex subject and researchers have gone into the intricacies of leisure such as kinds of leisure and the very origin of leisure. All those details we need not concern ourselves at present but focus on the basic qualities associated with leisure.

The common meaning of leisure is free time from work, from business, from occupation.  Leisure is at the opposite end of the spectrum of work life. It primarily refers to time spent away from business, from work, from job etc.

Now, if you are an employee of some firm, some company or some institution of some kind, say, a college, a shopping mall, you definitely have what is commonly called working hours; 9 to 5 is a general phrase pointing out that you work 8 hours every day. It is said that the idea of 8 hours of work came very late and earlier the working hours were more than 8, going up to 12 or more. With the efforts of some activists, it is said, the working duration was reduced; all this happened in the West some 300 hundred years ago. The day of an individual, that is 24 hours of a day, is divided into three 8 hour segments:  8 hours for the family,  8 hours of rest and sleep and 8 hours of work. This tripartite division of a day helps achieve balance between occupational engagement and domestic life with adequate rest. Domestic togetherness, it is supposed, gives peace of mind; eight hours of rest and sleep assured physical health which enables an individual to earn for living with 8 hours of work. This is all the general concept of work and life balance.

Now, let us come to leisure and its implications. First, it means free time from work. Please do not confuse with tea breaks and lunch breaks you have at your work places. Indeed, even those official breaks can be turned into leisure by an individual; it depends on him. But here, we must go to another aspect of free time. Free time is spent on some activities or other.  We see that leisure includes two facts:  time of leisure and the activities done during leisure. Based on these two facts of leisure, we can see how leisure reflects the social status of an individual.

If you are an employee of some institution where there will be specific working hours schedules, first of all, you cannot choose your leisure time. Your leisure time is decided in a way by your employer. At what time your work starts is decided by the employer which is his privilege, his choice, his legitimate decision. In other words, at a simple level, the social status differs between the two, one who cannot choose his leisure time and one who can choose his leisure time and also decide upon your leisure time. These are all common facts taken for granted and understood without any difficulty.

There are other factors involved in leisure like, besides the ability to choose leisure time, the quality of leisure time and the nature of activities engaged during leisure. We will see some more details in our next session touching upon leisure as an indicator of quality of life with its own standards.
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