Engagement in agricultural work is associated with reduced leisure time among Agta hunter-gatherers

A long-standing hypothesis suggests that the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture results in people working harder, spending more time engaged in subsistence activities and having less leisure time. However, tests of this hypothesis are obscured by comparing between populations that vary in ecology and social organization, as well as subsistence Here we test this hypothesis by examining adult time allocation among the Agta—a population of small-scale hunter-gatherers from the northern Philippines who are increasingly engaged in agriculture and other non-foraging work. We find that individuals in camps engaging more in non-foraging work spend more time involved in out-of-camp work and have substantially less leisure time. This difference is largely driven by changes in the time allocation of women, who spend substantially more time engaged in out-of-camp work in more agricultural camps. Our results support the hypothesis that hunting and gathering allows a significant amount of leisure time, and that this is lost as communities adopt small-scale agriculture.

Age and sex differences in time allocation a–d, Proportion of time spent engaged in domestic chores (a), childcare (b), out-of-camp work (c) and leisure activities (d) for individuals across all camps. Solid red lines represent females, while dashed blue lines represent males. Data in all panels represent all individuals aged >3.5 years (n = 151 male; n = 135 female). Curves are locally estimated scatterplot smoothed, with a 95% CI (shaded area) computed with span = 0.75 and degree = 2. Triangles show the mean values for individual males, while circles show the mean values for individual females.

Differences in time allocation between camps and between adults with and without young children a–c, Association between non-foraging as a proportion of all out-of-camp work and adult daylight leisure time (a), adult daylight out-of-camp work time (b), and adult leisure time split by sex across the ten study camps (c). Lines are the slopes from linear regressions, as described in the main text. The dashed lines in a and b are the 95% CIs. d, Time allocation of adult women and men with a youngest child under the age of 2 years and a youngest child between the ages of 2 and 10 years (women with child <2 years: n = 35; women with child 2–10 years: n = 15; men with child <2 years: n = 33; men with child 2–10 years: n = 13). Child., childcare; Dom., domestic chores; Work, out-of-camp work.

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