What is a gender-neutral alternative to the expression "man-days"? I thought of "work-days" but am wondering if there might be another term. The use would be, for instance, "This project requires staffing of 1000 man-days over a six-month period."

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    Is man-day really used?-- I'm a native English speaker and can't recall this being used despite that man-hour seems perfectly fine to me. Feb 24, 2017 at 10:16
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    This question contains the assumption that "man-day" is not gender-neutral. However it is. The question should really ask "What is a term for "man-day" without referencing gender?"
    – smci
    Mar 2, 2017 at 9:53
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    – MetaEd
    Nov 30, 2018 at 15:34
  • As far as my research, Man-days dont have any Gender associated with it. If people were educated with historic facts that it has derived from manual days -> they have different meanings. Manual goes back to a word meaning “hand,” and refers to something being done by hand. It comes to English from Latin. The word man is Germanic, not Latin, and its history goes back through Old English.
    – santhosh
    Mar 9 at 7:42

11 Answers 11


Person-hour or person-day are gender-neutral alternatives suggested by Wikipedia.

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    And since OP is asking about days, person-day is a term I've heard and used.
    – JAM
    Mar 28, 2013 at 13:24

If we’re talking labour, you could use worker-days, because in this context, worker is a better fix than person.

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    This is different from "work-days" in that you're still talking about people.
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 28, 2013 at 13:41

For software efforts, I like "developer days". Sure, it's longer, but it alliterates nicely, and can be abbreviated to "dev days" once everyone in the organization is familiar with the term.

  • Very nice: Gender neutral while not artificial PC, so nobody can complain. (Also tells you that it doesn't count manager days, tester days, marketing days etc. ).
    – gnasher729
    Mar 18, 2016 at 9:08
  • A problem with this is that you can't say the whole project will take X developer days, because some of the effort will go into testing, project management, etc.
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 22, 2020 at 21:23

We use labor days. The man-hour has become the labor-hour.

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    Isn't there only one labour day a year, though?
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 28, 2013 at 15:23
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    @JoeZeng - that explains the progress on some of my projects
    – mgb
    Mar 28, 2013 at 15:55
  • @JoeZeng - In case you're serious, the holiday is capitalized. And, as a matter of fact. Labour Day is celebrated on many different dates in various countries. So there are actually many Labour Days. Mar 29, 2013 at 0:10
  • ^ Nah, I was just joking.
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 29, 2013 at 4:34
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    With man-hour or person-hour, you multiply the people times the hours to get the man-hours. Just like foot-pounds, acre-feet, or kilowatt-hours. Miles/gallon or stitches/inch follow a similar convention. Labor isn't already a unit that is used to measure anything.
    – jejorda2
    Aug 16, 2016 at 18:15

Surely man hours or man days are both acceptable. You say you want a "gender neutral" alternative, but these forms are unmarked, much like we use mankind when talking about all people, not just those who are male. If you use a term like people days you might risk being ambiguous and waste time explaining your new word that could be spent on this massive project!

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    What possible ambiguity is there in "people-days"? Mar 28, 2013 at 19:45
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    This is an argument, not an answer.
    – horatio
    Mar 28, 2013 at 21:20
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    Actually, there really are people who think that mankind is offensively sexist.
    – tchrist
    Mar 28, 2013 at 21:33
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    @tchrist: They’re on the wrong side of historical etymology (man ~ person, wyf ~ female, wer ~ male), though probably the right side of good intentions.
    – Jon Purdy
    Mar 29, 2013 at 7:09
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    Downvoted because it's completely non-responsive to the question. Mar 29, 2013 at 14:15

I sometimes use the phrase "days of effort" as in:

This task will take about 20 days of effort.

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    Not clear whether that means the team will need 20 days, or the 5-member team will need 4 days. Mar 29, 2013 at 11:21

Since the phrase "staff years" is fairly common, I expect it would be well-understood to say "staff days". This avoids the ambiguity of "work days", which could be understood to mean Monday-Friday (depending on how clear the context is).


Days of effort is probably the most accurate. Work-days is shorter. Labour(or labor)days sounds more manual. Developer days is fine if you want to only look at part of the job, but Analysis days, Tester days etc would be needed too. I did wonder if Lady Days for the next hundred years would redress the balance (no, being 'humourous', or not). Man days does automatically make people think of the male first, so we do need something else, but it needs to clearly mean number of actual days of effort so people don't misinterpret as 'time to delivery'. It needs to be acceptable to feminists and misogynists alike. Work-days is what I'd vote for; I guess we'll see what gets into general use.

Since these development efforts are usually for comparison with other projects, Jira's idea of using points to indicate level of effort without saying directly it will take 5 days (and then being taken to task because it took 5.5 days) is a useful one, if people can be persuaded to use it properly.


Effort-Days has been my best and I have used it for over 30 years now. It is also recommended by a number of multilateral and multi-national organizations.

  • References to the numerous organizations that recommend this would vastly improve this answer!
    – Law29
    Dec 2, 2020 at 12:23

Assuming the context is labuor generally, I would suggest "work days".

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    Please add objective sources to your answer to substantiate it. Have a look at the help center to find out about good answers.
    – Helmar
    Aug 16, 2016 at 20:56

"Personnel hours" or "staff bandwidth" are good alternatives.

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    Who uses "staff bandwidth" to represent man-days? Aug 16, 2019 at 14:58
  • Could you add some references of where these have been used in the wild? Aug 17, 2019 at 18:20

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