Context: The all India Time Use Survey, 2019 has been recently published by the Government of India. National Statistical Office (NSO) conducted the first Time Use Survey in India during January – December 2019.

The “Time Use Survey'' (TUS) 

  • It provides a framework for measuring time dispositions by the population on different activities. 
  • One distinguishing feature of Time Use Survey from other household surveys is that it can capture time disposition on different aspects of human activities, be it paid, unpaid or other activities with such details which is not possible in other surveys.
  • It collects comprehensive information on all human activities, provides improved estimates of the workforce as well as shed light on important characteristics of the workforce. 
  • Objectives:
    • To measure participation of men and women in paid and unpaid activities.
    • To measure the time spent in unpaid care-giving activities, volunteer work, unpaid domestic service producing activities of the household members. 
    • To measure time spent on learning, socializing, leisure activities, self-care activities, etc., by the household members.

The data collection 

  • It was done for one day in a 24-hour time diary
  • In India, where literacy is low, the time diary was filled in by interviewers in 30 minute time slots through face-to-face interviews. 
  • In developed countries where literacy is high, time use is recorded in a 24-hour time diary by the respondents themselves, using 10-15 minute time slots.
  • The International Classification of Activities for Time-Use Statistics of the United Nations Statistics Division, was used for classification of activities.

Need for TUS

  • Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): 
    • Time use data are needed for implementing not only the SDG 5.4 on unpaid work, but also for implementing the SDG-1 to the SDG-10. 
    • For the SDG 5.4 , the Indian TUS data is not adequate. 
    • TUS data are also required for understanding and monitoring major socioeconomic concerns of countries. 
  • Resolution of the 19th International Conference on Labour Statistics, International Labour Organization 2013” formally recognizes unpaid domestic services and unpaid care as “work” for the first time.
    • It presents a new definition of work, new forms of work and a new labour force status classification. 
    • It defines “work” as “any activity performed by persons of any sex and age to produce goods or provide services for use by others or own use”. 
    • “Work” is divided into five categories: 
      • Employment (production of goods and services for pay, profit or barter); 
      • Own use production of goods and services by households; 
      • Unpaid trainee work, volunteer work; and 
      • Other work (compulsory work performed without pay to produce goods/services for others). 
    • The Resolution cannot be implemented without time use data. 
  • Flaws in calculation of unpaid work:
    • Input method: This method values the labour input in unpaid work using suitable prices (minimum wages of workers, housekeeper’s wages, opportunity costs or specialised wages). 
    • However, this valuation is not adequate, because it values only the labour input and excludes the capital and technology used. 
    • Satellite accounts of unpaid work takes into consideration capital/technology.

Shortcomings of TUS

  • Information regarding capital is not collected by this TUS in the background questionnaire. 
    • In the absence of this information, valuation will not be feasible in satellite accounts. Since there is no data collected on the ownership of the assets by gender, valuation by gender will not be feasible.
  • Not accounting informal work: A TUS collects data only for one or two days per person in a week, while according to the ILO, “a person is a worker if she/he has spent at least one hour on work in the reference week”. 
    • As informal work is frequently intermittent and irregular, the TUS information on one day’s work (for less than one hour) or non-work cannot qualify the person to be a worker or non-worker. 
    • It is quite likely that the person reporting as a non-worker on one day may be working on other days, or one reporting work may not work for one hour totally in the week.
    • Thus, the TUS cannot provide information on the workforce/employment status of persons. 

Concerns with India’s methodology

  • Defining work:
    • It was a good opportunity for India to implement the Resolution. 
    • However, the Standing Committee on Labour Force Statistics that designed the time use survey decided to keep the Resolution out and conducted an independent TUS. 
    • The TUS does not even have employment as one of the objectives.
  • Breaks in Indian surveys

    • Indian Employment/Unemployment Surveys (EUS), tend to under-report informal workers, due to the nature of informal employment which is frequently intermittent, scattered, temporary, short term or unstable.

    • Women frequently view work as a part of household work and under-report it. 

    • The EUS are not equipped to collect data on multiple jobs performed by people, the time spent on work (i.e. intensity of work), the scattered nature of work, subsistence work, and work performed under simultaneous activities. 

Way forward:

  • National TUS: The TUS can thus provide critical information to add the richness of the EUS. 
    • The Expert Committee on the 62nd Round of the NSSO on EUS therefore recommended that a national TUS should follow an EUS.
  • Accounting informal work: It is necessary to draw the TUS sample (which is always smaller) from the same sampling framework that is used by the labour force survey (EUS), with some common units.
    • The TUS can complement the labour force survey (LFS) information. 
    • The independent TUS cannot provide estimates of the workforce/labour force.

Image source: The Hindu Center