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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 time1,2. However, tests of this hypothesis are obscured by comparing between populations that vary in ecology and social organization, as well as subsistence3,4,5,6. 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.

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The individual-level data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Any further work on the data depends on community approval.

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We thank R. K. Schlaepfer, K. Major, S. Viguier and the Curampez family for assistance in the field, C. Duncan and D. Rubenstein for comments on the manuscript, and the Agta and Paranan communities for their hospitality. This project was funded by Leverhulme Trust grant RP2011-R-045 to A.B.M. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

M.D. conceived of the study and wrote the manuscript. M.D. and J.T. analysed the data. M.D., A.E.P., D.S. and A.B.M. collected the data. All authors discussed the results and contributed towards improving the final manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Mark Dyble.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–6 and Supplementary Tables 1–4.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Software

R code used to analyse Agta time budget data.

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Fig. 1: Age and sex differences in time allocation.
Fig. 2: Differences in time allocation between camps and between adults with and without young children.