Copy for information purposes prepared from the official electronic
Meeting on Trial International Classification
for Time-Use Activities
Report of the meeting held in New York, 13-16 October 1997
and Organization of the Meeting
of Experiences and Objectives of Time-Use Surveys
Schemes for Classifying Time-Use Activities
and Specification of the Classification
Issues Relevant to the Classification
for Finalizing, External Review and Testing of the Classification
for a Trial International Classification for Time-use Activities
AND ORGANIZATION OF THE MEETING
meeting was held at United Nations Headquarters, New York, from
13-16 October 1997. The following experts participated: Michael
Bittman (Australia), Dabilani Buthali (Botswana), Andy Harvey (Canada),
Chris Jackson (Canada), Abaynesh Makonnen Gizaw (Ethiopia), Iiris
Niemi (Finland), Jacques Charmes (France), Luisella Goldschmidt-Clermont
(France), Indira Hirway (India), Linda Sabbadini (Italy), Katsuya
Akasaka (Japan), Parsla Eglite (Latvia), Mercedes Pedrero (Mexico),
Meena Acharya (Nepal), Gustav Haraldsen (Norway), Margarita F. Guerrero
(Philippines), Linda Stinson (United States), Lourdes Urdaneta-Ferrán
(Venezuela). The Statistical Office of the European Community (EUROSTAT)
and the International Labour Office (ILO) were also represented.
Director of the Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat,
Mr. Hermann Habermann, opened the meeting. He welcomed the participants
and spoke of the increasing importance of data on time-use. He pointed
to the two different approaches to a classification of time-use
activities that were to be reviewed and summarized the goal of the
meeting as arriving at an agreed classification, specified to the
two-digit level, that could be tested in countries.
annotated agenda of the meeting is attached, and the list of documents
distributed are in Annex 1 and Annex 2, respectively. Ms. Guerrero
presided during the first two days of the meeting and Mr. Bittman
during the last two days.
OF EXPERIENCES AND OBJECTIVES OF TIME-USE SURVEYS
A presentation on the EUROSTAT Pilot Survey on Time Use identified
problems related to the specification of activities, but noted that
the general survey design proved successful. The presentation on
the time-use study in Italy also identified problems with the specification
of activities and concluded that improvements in survey methods
rather than the classification system were required to improve the
amount of information specified in time-use diaries.
respect to objectives and uses of time-use surveys, the priority
uses of and interests in time-use data were discussed by each participant
for their country. The most common objectives identified by both
developed and developing countries, related to issues of gender
and work, specifically the division of labour in the home and improvement
in the measurement of women’s unpaid work. A related objective concerned
the use of time-use statistics in the preparation of household satellite
accounts. Another common objective concerned changes in allocation
of time across broad categories of activity.
to undertake national time-use studies in three developing countries
-- India, the Philippines and South Africa -- were described. Among
the objectives for these surveys are to quantify women’s contribution
to economic activities, to measure the extent of child labour, and
to understand the relationship between welfare and poverty. The
participant from India also
the objectives the need for information on livelihood strategies
and on when people are free of work as a basis for planning skills
formation, training and other poverty alleviation programmes.
SCHEMES FOR CLASSIFYING TIME-USE ACTIVITIES
documents for review by the meeting were "Trial classification
for time-use activities" (ESA/STAT/AC.59/1), and "An Alternative
approach to the time-use activity list" (ESA/STAT/AC.59/2).
main rationale for the "Trial classification" proposed
by UNSD was the growing interest to have a comprehensive knowledge
and understanding of the use of time in different societies. Time-use
studies also provided a unique tool with which to measure unpaid
work in both developed and developing countries and to supplement
labour statistics in developing countries. Given these objectives,
the proposed classification differed from other existing time-use
classifications, such as the one used in the pilot surveys organized
by EUROSTAT and other national classifications in three main ways:
system of national accounts (SNA) was used as the basic framework
for determining the economic nature of the activities;
for non-market production which are an important part of production
in developing countries, had been assigned to one major group with
detailed specifications at two and three digit levels; and
"On-the-job" activities which are normally
not specified in detail, had been given more detailed breakdown
and classified primarily by employment status categories.
the "Alternative approach" pointed out, the attempt to
develop more detailed classification in two major groups of economic
activity had accentuated the problem of duplication in the activity
classification. This and other problems raised by some reviewers
of the draft "Trial classification" therefore needed to
be addressed by the Expert Group. Some of the concerns to be discussed
included: (i) how specific activities of different groups of the
population, such as children and the disabled, might be classified;
(ii) the extent to which "on-the-job" activities should
be specified in the classification; and (iii) how context variables
were to be used in the classification.
note on the "Alternative approach" was prepared*
as a reaction to the Secretariat’s proposal in order to resolve
what was considered as particularly problematic in the proposed
"trial classification": (1) an abundance of both internal
and external duplications of activities: internal duplications referring
to activities of basically the same type being classified in different
parts of the "trial classification"; and external duplications
referring to the use of other classifications to introduce distinctions
based on the context of the activity, into the proposed "trial
classification"; (2) a terminology for the groups concerned
with work-related activities which reflected activities undertaken
by establishments rather than those of the persons working. The
alternative approach was to create a classification system consisting
of (i) a classification of types of time-use activities; and (ii)
a number of classifications of identified "context" variables,
which could be used to group time-use episodes according to the
needs of various descriptive and analytical perspectives. An example
of (i) was presented with references to the "trial classification",
as well as examples of context variables incorporated into the proposed
by Eivind Hoffman and Adriana Mata, ILO, Bureau of Statistics. The
paper was prepared in a private capacity, and the views and proposals
did not necessarily reflect the position of the ILO or the Bureau
meeting acknowledged that while the "Alternative approach"
presented an approach to the classification of time-use activities
different from those that had to date been used for time-use studies,
the groupings presented in the traditional time-use classifications
could generally be derived by cross-classifying a "type of
activity" classification with the context variable defined
by responses to the question "for whom?". However, the
meeting considered that the approach of the "trial classification"
was preferable because of its stronger links with existing time-use
classifications, although it was noted that the dependence on SNA
groupings made it confusing and potentially difficult to apply in
practice. Specifically, many believed that it would be too complicated
to separate market from non-market production in the household sector.
meeting recognized the usefulness of specifying details of time
use in work situations for analyzing the impact of labour regulations
and the relationship between the content of work and of leisure,
and for specific types of market research. It was however felt that
there should be more careful consideration of the purpose that such
a classification would serve and of the extent of detail that could
realistically be collected without overloading the diary and adding
to the already heavy burden on the respondents. The meeting welcomed
the initiative taken to open the block of time devoted to work and
suggested that a separate classification of type of "on-the-job"
time-use activities might be developed by ILO to respond to the
need for this type of information.
AND SPECIFICATION OF THE CLASSIFICATION
discussions on the best approach to adopt for a trial international
classification focussed on the purpose of the classification, its
scope and structure, the content of each major group, and the use
of context variables for grouping activities.
meeting noted that the classification was to provide the basis on
which data from time-use surveys would be coded and presented in
categories that would be meaningful in the assessment of national
labour inputs into production of all goods and all types of services;
in the compilation of household satellite accounts; and in examining
trends in the broad uses of time. The two main principles for specifying
the classification were therefore to:
a structure which is consistent with the conceptual framework of
the System of National Accounts (SNA) and allows for creating aggregates
for satellite accounts. For this reason, it was desirable that at
the second and other levels of the classification it be possible
to combine subgroups and categories of activities to form the conceptual
groupings within the SNA (i.e. market and own-account production
by households), as well as productive activities within the general
production boundary (using the third person criterion);
comparability with other existing time-use classifications.
it was suggested that although countries were expected to adapt
the proposed international classification to their national social
and economic realities, every effort should be made to maintain
international comparability at the 2-digit level of classification.
was agreed that the scope of the classification would continue to
cover all activities on which time was spent, classified under ten
major groups. The disaggregation of time spent on the job, should
however be limited to identifying breaks, secondary jobs, etc. The
following major groups were adopted (see Annex 3 for their content
- 1. Employment
- 2. Primary
production activities (not for establishments)
- 3. Services
for income and other production of goods (not for establishments)
- 4. Household
maintenance, management and shopping for own household
- 5. Care
for children, the sick, elderly and disabled for own household
- 6. Community
services and help to other households
- 7. Learning
- 8. Social
and cultural activities
- 9. Mass
- 0. Personal
care and self-maintenance
the content of each major group the meeting outlined the following
general considerations which should be applied.
which represented production within the SNA production boundary
could be classified in major groups 1 to 3*. Activities which fell
predominantly within the general production boundary but outside
the SNA boundary, using the "third person" criterion of
the SNA, were to be classified in groups 4 to 6; and major groups
7 to 9 and 0 covered non-production activities. Further distinctions
between the major groups were as follows:
are activities classified to 15, 18, 28 and 38; and included are
activities classified to 61.
group 1: Employment for establishments - includes paid and unpaid
employment in establishments (i.e. fixed structures and large-scale
agricultural holdings) irrespective of the industrial sector of
the activity. To be consistent with definitions of actual hours
worked and of economic activity, this major group also includes
short breaks during working hours, and the work component of apprenticeships.
"Seeking employment" is also included here, to be consistent
with earlier time-use classifications.
group 2: Primary production activities (not for establishments)
- is comprised of the activities not covered in major group
1 which mainly include peasant or subsistence farming and activities
connected with other types of primary production. The outputs which
result from activities classified under this major group may or
may not be sold or bartered, and could be for households’ own consumption.
Major group 3: Services for income and other production of goods
(not for establishments) - consists of activities for production
of goods and services not covered in major group 1. These are typically
income-generating services and production of non-primary goods for
sale or for household’s own consumption.
Major group 4: Household maintenance, management and shopping for
own household - comprises services such as general management
of the household, performing housework, and shopping, which are
performed by members of the household for their own household.
Major group 5: Care for children, the sick, elderly and disabled
for own household - covers individual services pertaining to
the physical care of children and care provided to other members
of the household who are sick, disabled or elderly.
Major group 6: Community services and help to other households -
covers both obligatory and voluntary services which are provided
for the benefit of members of the community, as well as help extended
to other households (such as households of relatives, friends and
Major group 7: Learning - covers attendance in formal education
and other types of schooling and vocational training, including
studying in preparation for classes and examinations, taking courses,
Major group 8: Social and cultural activities - consists of
those activities which are primarily for personal benefit, or for
the benefit of own household or of others (including family members,
neighbours and friends).
group 9: Mass media use - covers activities related to
the use of mass media, such as listening to the radio, watching
television and reading newspaper, magazines, novels, etc.
Major group 0: Personal care and self-maintenance - comprises
those activities required by the individual to meet their own biological
needs, and includes time spent caring for one’s own self or receiving
this type of care.
meeting discussed at length the boundaries of the major groups and
the categories of activities which needed to be defined at the second
digit level. The resulting output of the discussions was a "Proposal
for a Trial International Classification of Time Use Activities"
which is presented in Annex 3. In addition, the meeting made the
following observations and identified unresolved issues which could
be left for further consideration and discussion on the basis of
national experiences and research.
difficulty of developing a classification that would cover the diversity
of all national situations was recognized. The group stressed the
importance of countries using the agreed 2-digit level classification
to ensure comparability. The Statistics Division will develop a
3-digit classification which countries may adapt to their respective
national contexts. The group urged that country-specific changes
should only be made at the 3-digit or more detailed levels.
is a very common activity in both developed and developing countries,
and forms a particularly significant component of some types of
activity, for example, travel, searching for employment, visits
to health care centres, paying for services, etc. However, the time
spent in the activity "waiting" had often not been reported
in the diaries of respondents in most studies that had been carried
out in developed countries. It was proposed that for the 2-digit
level activity categories in which waiting was a significant component,
a specification of "waiting" as a type of activity at
the third digit level of classification might be introduced".
Moreover, instructions on where and how to code "waiting"
should be clearly explained.
distinctions between major group 1 and groups 2 and 3 needs further
clarification to make the groups operational. The Secretariat would
therefore need to provide a definition of "establishment"
which was the primary basis for classifying employment in major
was some interest in comparing the amounts of time spent on activities
for market production with the time spent on similar activities
for non-market production within and outside the SNA production
boundary. Given that clarification of the "for whom" variable
was necessary in order to identify market and non-market activities,
it was suggested that further research would be needed to determine
the contextual variables and the response categories expected.
issue suggested for further study concerned what was generally referred
to as supervising children. Since a significant part of this function
took place concurrently with other activities, such as housework,
reading, relaxation, etc., indications of the time spent on supervising
children (unless clearly reported as such or as a secondary activity)
would have to be obtained from cross-classifications with responses
to the question "with whom".A supplementary study of this
phenomenon to better measure time input in child care within the
household was proposed.
the discussion of contextual variables required for the classification,
the Group observed that the two main questions needed for distinguishing
activities of one major group from another were "for whom"
and "location". The specification of categories of these
variables were needed to clarify and distinguish activities in one
grouping from another.
ISSUES RELEVANT TO THE CLASSIFICATION
the limited time available, the meeting discussed only briefly the
range of methodological considerations involved in collecting time-use
data. The discussion raised issues concerning the recording procedures,
units of recall or time span, the coding of write-in responses and
the structure of the diary. The recording procedures included: self-reporting
by respondent with mail-back diaries; self-reporting with diary
pick-up and checking of responses; face-to-face or telephone interviews;
and observation method. The units of recall or time span within
which respondents were made to consider the activities could vary
from a whole week to a day. The two basic forms of structuring the
diary involved either using fixed time intervals or an open format
with the beginning and end times for each activity.
time diaries might have intervals of any duration. The most common
were 10 or 15 minutes. It was believed that although the fixed intervals
would not present a problem in developing countries, this method
should not be used if the recall method was being used. The strategy
for reporting activities could be to ask for a chronological report
or to ask for the activities that the respondent readily remembered
and probe successively until completeness was achieved.
respect to the number of respondents per household, either one person
was selected from each sampled household to complete a diary, or
each of the eligible members of a given household completed a diary.
It was believed that the latter method could present problems in
many developing countries.
meeting noted that there were advantages and disadvantages to each
procedure or technique. The choice of approach with respect to the
kind of diary, technique of recording, etc., would depend on a combination
of factors, including the characteristics of the target population
(e.g. literacy levels), communication technology and infrastructure
(such as telecommunication and mailing systems), and available resources.
meeting discussed the types of information needed and identified
the following as important context variables: "for whom",
"with whom" and location. It was recommended that classifications
for these variables be developed. The collection of information
on secondary activities was also considered to be desirable.
meeting further noted that while there was substantial experience
in the collection of time-use data in developed countries, it would
be necessary to experiment with different formats and methods in
order to assess their relative effectiveness for collecting time-use
data in developing countries.
PLANS FOR FINALIZING, EXTERNAL REVIEW
AND TESTING OF THE CLASSIFICATION
Expert Group discussed plans for follow-up work on the document
and agreed that:
Participants should be given the opportunity for further review
from developing countries were encouraged to submit wording for
the classification that would reflect the situation in their countries
was recommended that a meeting of a small working group was needed
to reconcile comments on the revised classification and to assist
in finalizing the document. The Statistics Division would try to
identify a suitable opportunity, for example in connection with
another meeting, and the necessary resources to convene such a meeting.
It was also noted that further development and formal adoption of
the classification by the Statistical Commission depended on its
testing in developing countries. It was agreed that the classification,
while not complete, would provide guidance to countries in their
work and countries planning time-use surveys were encouraged to
work within the agreed framework.
meeting emphasized that a good classification was only the first
step in improving the collection of time-use statistics. Countries
also needed guidance on how to carry out time-use surveys. The meeting
agreed that it would be important to prepare a manual to provide
methodological guidance on time-use surveys relevant to a wide range
meeting stressed the importance of developing methodological tools
to facilitate national implementation of the classification. In
this regard, it would be necessary to:
appropriate coding tools which would reflect the responses and
determine their effective use for the corresponding codes;
a correspondence table with other time-use classifications to
facilitate comparisons with other studies over time;
basic categories for the context variables needed to implement
group encouraged national statistics offices and researchers to
experiment with the different diary formats and methods and to share
information about their experiences in the development of these
meeting expressed appreciation of the work of the Statistics Division
to develop an international classification which would serve the
needs of both developing and developed countries. The group agreed
to assist in these efforts and urged international organizations
and bilateral agencies to support further development of this work,
in particular in developing countries. The following specific suggestions
participants agreed to share information about planned and ongoing
studies, particularly in developing countries.
with time-use data collection experience were urged to form bilateral
association with developing countries to provide technical and other
necessary support for carrying out such studies, and several participants
offered to explore ways in which their institutions could support
time-use work in developing countries.
should consider ways of testing the classification and provide feedback
on improvements needed. Interest in doing so was expressed in connection
with planned work in India, Nepal, the Philippines and South Africa.
was interest in the organization of a workshop to bring together
persons in the field of time-use statistics from developed and developing
countries. It was proposed that the International Association of
Time Use Researchers (IATUR) could conduct one in connection with
its next meeting to be held 26 July - 1 August 1998 in Montreal.
Presentations on EUROSTAT experience and experience with activity
specification in the time-use survey of Italy.
and uses of time-use surveys
Historical overview on objectives of time-use surveys and user
needs as expressed by recent global conferences, covering both
developed and developing countries, and discussion of uses and
priorities for the collection of time-use data, current and
planned, in developed and developing countries.
schemes for classifying time-use activities
Background, framework and structure of classification by UNSD
Rationale, principles and structure of the alternative classification
and specification of the classification
Proposals and agreement on an approach, main criteria and categories:
and structure (major activity groups, context variables, criteria,
level of detail and corresponding number of digits)
- categories of activities and codes for the classification
variables (with whom, for whom, location) - categories and
issues relevant to the classification
for finalizing, external review and testing of the classification
Steps needed to finalize document, outline of the classification
document, required review and possible contacts, countries which
might be considered for testing the classification
of summary report
List of Documents
ESA/STAT/AC.59/1 "Trial International Classification for Time-Use
Activities", Statistics Division of the United Nations
ESA/STAT/AC.59/2 "An Alternative
Approach to the Time-Use Activity List", Eivind Hoffmann and
Adriana Mata, International Labour Organization
ESA/STAT/AC.59/3 Report of the meeting
ESA/STAT/AC.59/4 "A Review of
Two Approaches to Classifying Time-Use Activities", Andrew
ESA/STAT/AC.59/5 "The experience with activity reporting in
the Time Use Survey in Italy", Linda Sabbadini
Tentative Work Programme
List of Participants
Proposal for a Trial International Classification
for Time-use Activities