A brainstorming session on ‘Methodologies for Collection of Time Use Data’, organised by NCAER’s newly set up National Data Innovation Centre (NDIC), was held at NCAER, New Delhi, on January 12, 2018. Apart from Shekhar Shah, Director-General, NCAER, and Sonalde Desai, Senior Fellow, NCAER and Director of NCAER’s newly set up National Data Innovation Centre (NDIC), the session was attended by pioneers and researchers in the collection of time use data in India, including Rakesh Maurya, Director, CSO, MoSPI; Devaki Jain, eminent writer and feminist economist; Ashwini Deshpande, Delhi School of Economics; J.P. Bhattacharjee and Sachin Kumar, NSSO; Shambhavi Srivastava, IFMR Lead; and Ellina Samantroy, V.V. Giri National Labour Institute.
The context of the session was the increasing interest in women’s care work burden, which has necessitated collection of time use data and analyses of how women spend their time. This has, in turn, led to advocacy for better measurement of women’s Work Participation Rates and changes in the way the NSSO captures women’s domestic activities and subsidiary work status. In recent years, the Government of India has affirmed its commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to the implementation of the Resolution on Statistics on Work, Employment and Labour Underutilisation. Data on time use is a key component of both. The report by a NITI Aayog task force on collection of employment data also calls for regular time use surveys. However, conducting time use surveys can be both expensive and time consuming.
The session was initiated by Dr Sonalde Desai, who said that generation of new ideas for data collection on time use is a seminal requirement for data collection, in general, as it reflects the changes in the demand and supply of data, and also entails the use of technology for reducing the cost of data collection. She anticipated that the innovative ideas generated at this session would contribute significantly to the NDIC work on time use in the near future. The technical session was chaired by Professor A.K. Shiva Kumar, Adviser, UNICEF.
Professor Indira Hirway, Director, Centre for Development Alternatives, in her presentation, outlined the importance of data collection in time use studies, which provide detailed information on how individuals allocate their time on activities listed under the System of National Accounts (SNA), non-SNA activities, and personal activities. This data is also important for analysing human capital formation, and for examining the critical concerns of an economy related to various parameters like poverty and unemployment, and for incorporating this work in the designing and monitoring of policy. In addition, such data helps in studying the care economy comprising both paid as well as unpaid work, in order to understand the workforce and ensure that no activity, paid or unpaid, is left out of the estimation and valuation of work. She also discussed the various components and types of time use surveys, and how they can be supplemented by independent 24-hour diary surveys. She pointed out that India was one of the first countries in the developing world to conduct a national time use survey using a 24-hour time diary in 1998-99, which has helped in policy designing and development of analytical tools pertaining to various areas of study including employment and unemployment, time poverty, valuation of unpaid work in satellite accounts, gender budgeting, analysis of macroeconomic and social policies and programmes. She concluded her presentation by enlisting the challenges faced by researchers in collecting time use data in the country and the possible ways of overcoming these challenges.
A presentation by Professor Liana Sayer, Director of the Maryland Time Use Laboratory and Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, followed. She averred that the challenges being discussed at the workshop are also being faced by researchers on time use in the USA. The various issues raised by Professor Sayer included the strategies adopted in the US to produce data on productive labour and childcare; the application of time use research for understanding employment and family relationships; linkages of time use patterns on a long-term basis; evaluation of care versus leisure activities; use of new technologies to collect and harvest time use data; and the possibility of combining the survey on time use with other surveys to ensure a better response from the target audience.
Thereafter, the participants discussed on matters such which included; NSSO’s plans to bring out a more systematic survey module for time use to enable more scientific and comprehensive area sampling and stratification of households; treating a past NCAER-NSSO study as a benchmark for identifying best practices in the field; need to assess the time spent by women in simultaneous activities by examining different context variables; employment of different coding techniques and joint appointment of male and female investigators for household interviews; and use of advanced investigative tools and modern data collection methods like computer-assisted personal interviews (CAPI) to evolve simple yet rigorous methods of collecting time use data without compromising on the quality of the data.