Outcome report Webinar Measuring Time Use and Quantifying Care: Challenges and strategies in the design and harmonization of Time Use Surveys

Fecha: viernes, 28 de agosto de 2020



Medición del uso del tiempo y cuantificación del cuidado 




With the idea of systematizing, analyzing and disseminating best practices in Time Use Surveys (TUS) conducted in different countries and regions, Making Every Woman and Girl Count (Women Count),  in coordination with the Global Centre of Excellence on Gender Statistics (CEGS), led and developed two studies about challenges in designing and conducting TUS in developing countries with the objective of identifying  methodological inconsistencies and to improve international comparability for policy purposes.


Nancy Folbre and Jacques Charmes, collaborated with UN Women in the development of two important studies to:

  1. Determine the effect of methodological features on reports of total time devoted to unpaid work and, more specifically, direct care of family members and test the hypotheses generated in six countries 
  2. Identify methodological problems that stand in the way of cross-country comparisons of time-use surveys globally; review the existing academic literature and statistical office reports (including smaller scale community time use surveys and Living Standards Measurement and related surveys); and generate some hypotheses regarding the implications of methodological issues.


Webinar objectives 

This Webinar presented the key findings of the studies by Nancy Folbre and Jacques Charmes from their recent collaborative research with UN Women.  It also provided a collaboration platform for stakeholders and experts dialogue to get feedback and specific recommendations around better methodological approaches to design and conduct TUS as well as to improve comparability and methods of harmonization across national surveys. Furthermore, this Webinar allowed us to consider the great value of having a representant of the UN Expert Group on Innovative and Effective Ways to Collect Time-Use Statistics (EG-TUS) as part of the conversation, through the presentation of their recent work in this topic.   


Key messages


  • The Webinar Measuring Time Use and Quantifying Care: Challenges and strategies in the design and harmonization of Time Use Surveys brought together 162 experts on time use surveys from 64 countries around the world, among them representatives of National Statistical Offices, members of UN Women, the UN System, civil society, academia and the private sector to discuss opportunities to improve production and analysis of time use surveys. 
  • UN Women is committed to improve data collection and gender statistics on unpaid care and domestic work due to this is a foundation of sustainable development, this would be possible through collaboration with key actors. Making Every Women and Girl Count (Women Count) is working with 17 countries to enhance capacity to monitor the 5.4.1 indicator on unpaid care and domestic work. Through the CEGS, Women Count supports crosscutting and innovative research on gender statistics. In the COVID19 context, since March, UN Women is working on 14 Rapid Assessment Surveys to identify how COVID19 pandemic is affecting women in unpaid care and domestic work. 


  • Jacques Charmes, Emeritus research director at the French Scientific Research Institute for Development, presented the key findings of the study on Measuring Time Use: An assessment of issues and challenges in conducting time-use surveys with special emphasis on developing countries – methodological inconsistencies, harmonization strategies and revised designs in conducting time-use surveys.
  • The three main project objectives were: 1) to better interpret results of national time use surveys; 2) to improve comparability and methods of harmonization across national surveys; and 3) to inform future survey design and related tools for making easier the conduct of such surveys across a broader range of countries at different income levels. At a global level, there were analyzed 192 surveys in 81 countries that fit with the criteria of being; national surveys that use a diary as method of data collection or a complete (or near-complete) list of activities through stylised questionnaires, also it was consider important to have metadata information and main findings published on national official websites. 
  • As result, there  were identified two issues to avoid when conducting a time-use survey, especially in developing countries: 1) At the initial stage, when the decision to conduct the survey is about to be taken or is in discussion, time-use surveys, which are often funded (at least partially) by external donors, do not sufficiently sensitise policy-makers outside gender ministries or statistical offices in charge of data collection; 2) At publication stage, consultants in charge of drafting the survey report must be knowledgeable and specialists of time-use data: it is striking to note that the sections on time-use resulting from the analysis of short time-use modules embedded in multipurpose household surveys are often disappointing, misleading and not enough gender-disaggregated. Even in developed countries, the most basic and primary tabulations provided to the users on NSO’s websites are not systematically disaggregated by sex (sex is treated as a variable among others) whereas any time-use statistic not disaggregated by sex is almost a nonsense. Consequently, the dissemination of survey outcomes may be deceiving or falling short of the expectations of the stakeholders other than the direct sponsors.
  • According to Jacques Charmes, data collection through diaries should be preferred to list of stylised questions. Diary is the only method ensuring that the time captured in all activities recorded does not exceed (or is less than) 24 hours. Stylised questionnaires naturally and logically mix main and secondary or simultaneous activities. Furthermore, stylized questionnaires are overburdening the interviewee as well as the interviewer and end in longer time interviews with increased costs. 
  • As he pointed out, simultaneous activities should preferably be approached through privileging care of children or of adults, rather than through an open question, to avoid that care be in competition with use of mass media or use of electronic devices, for instance. Recent diaries have included a specific question, separate from simultaneous, to capture the impact of new technologies on our use of time. As they are pervasive, they risk to obscure or pollute all other activities, which are carried out in a passive way, especially care (“supervisory care” or “on-call time”). The radio, TV or smartphones are probably switched on all day long and interfere with all other activities, but the gender dimension of time-use surveys should lead us to focus on care, as regard simultaneous activities.


  • Nancy Folbre, Professor Emerita of Economics and Director of the Program on Gender and Care Work at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, presented the key findings of the study on Quantifying Care: Design and Harmonization Issues in Time-Use Surveys
  • Some lessons from Folbre’s analysis of time use survey data from Six Countries: a) In Mexico and Ecuador supervisory time for care of dependents is biggest component of  women’s direct care time (over 40%); b) total household supervisory care for children in households with children under 5 does not exceed a benchmark for time these children require supervision (but comes close); c) significant supervisory care “deficits” are apparent in Ghana and South Africa despite prompts regarding passive care; d) large deficits also apparent in S. Korea and China, though these may reflect public or private child care provision.
  • As a result of her study, Folbre suggested to : a) encourage more methodological research, including combined qualitative/quantitative analysis; b) develop “hybrid” methodologies—time-diary methods that include some stylized questions regarding temporal constraints; c) this is consistent with “light-diary” approaches that ask people to report time allocation to a specified “short-list”—approaches that are more easily digitized and decentralized than in-person interviews; d) move toward greater harmonization of basic survey designs.


  • Francesca Grumis the Chief of the Social and Gender Statistics Section in the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). She is in charge of the implementation of the UN Global Gender Statistics Programme, including the Evidence and Data for Gender Equality (EDGE) project, and is currently leading the work of the UN Expert Group on Innovative and Effective ways to Collect Time Use Statistics. She presented some challenges faced by National Statistical Offices to modernize time-use data collection. Regarding, indicator 5.4.1 in SDGs data base, at a global level there are 89 countries with data disaggregated by sex, thus it is necessary to produce more regularly and efficiently time-use data. 
  • She presented current work of UN Expert Group on Innovative and Effective Ways to Collect Time-Use Statistics, who is looking for solutions to modernize time-use data collection in line with ICATUS 2016 and SDGs, such as promoting consistent concepts and definitions, ensuring high-quality data, apply latest technologies and promote more frequent collections. With these elements the UN Expert Group produce new UN Guidelines on the production of time-use statistics to produce more relevant, high-quality, reliable, and comparable time-use data in all countries, especially during crises such as COVID pandemic. 
  • As a solution the UN Expert Group propose a minimum harmonized instrument to promote more frequent collections, considering a minimum list of 25 predefined activities. To finalize this minimum instrument, it is necessary to develop a “model questionnaire” and supporting material as hands-on tool for countries to test and adapt to own context, while promoting international comparability (ICATUS 2016). Finally, it is important to provide recommendations for countries that are collecting time-use data during crisis, such as keep it short (15 min), no verbatim- re-coding of activities is a long process, location information is critical. 

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