The allocation of time to non-market off-farm activities by farm household members in the West of Ireland
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Community development and social support systems have evolved uniquely in rural Ireland. In response to poverty and other historical developments, dense networks of families, friends and neighbours often formed strong informal social support systems, allocating time to help each other. Such behaviour is consistent with the 'meitheal' tradition, the idea of spirit of community or connectedness within groups of neighbours, an ethos that is preserved and safeguarded among farming communities throughout the West of Ireland. Over the past two decades, evolving farm and trade policies, new technologies and a challenging economic climate have started to impact on the behaviour and time management decisions of farm household members in Ireland. Thus, an analysis of the economics of time allocation is important for understanding how farm family members adjust to these changes and the implications of these changes on their unique support systems and well-being. Within this context, this thesis considers the allocation of time to non-market off-farm activities by farm household members in the West of Ireland. Time allocated to activities such as civic engagement and volunteering plays an important role in the delivery of socially important goods and services that seek to improve the well-being of the rural population and promote rural sustainability. In turn, the social capital generated from such off-farm non-market activities and the use of leisure time by farm household members is an important dimension of social well-being, enhancing the health status of the individual. Therefore, the overarching goal of this thesis is to provide a detailed understanding of how time allocated to non-market off-farm activities impacts on individual well-being, rural development and sustainability. To this end, a single-purpose time use diary survey combined with individual and household questionnaires that collected information on respondents' background characteristics was developed, administered and analysed and three specific research objectives addressed. First, a profile of time and task management of farm family members in the West of Ireland is presented. Second, the factors that influence the participation in and the number of hours dedicated to civic engagement, formal and informal volunteering are explored. Third, the factors that influence the level of participation in active, passive and social entertainment leisure activities are investigated. Finally, this thesis makes a substantiative methodological contribution by way of the innovative design of the time use diary which has the potential to change the way that these types of surveys are conducted.