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Capturing Women’s Work Through Time Use Surveys: Implications for Policy

Dr. Ellina Samantroy, Fellow at VV Giri National Labour Institute, joined us for our seminar series on April 22nd, 2024 to discuss “Capturing Women’s Work Through Time Use Surveys and Further Implications for Policy Making. Dr. Samantroy laid the context by highlighting two alarming issues: the gender gap between men and women and the low participation of women in the job market. This is substantiated when we look at the figures in 2023, where 48.7% of women participated in the labor market as compared to 73% of men.


Women’s work participation was continuously decreasing since 2004-05 and then it started increasing after 2017-18. This increase can be attributed to the increased proportion of the self-employed workforce. The question now remains understanding the concentration of self-employed workforce across occupations and sectors. This can be clearly identified by using TUS (Time Use Survey) data.


Highlights from Dr. Samantroy’s seminar are shared below:


Background of TUS:

TUS is a quantitative summary of how individuals allocate their time over a specified time period- typically over 24 hours in a day or over the 7 days of a week on different activities and how much time they spend on each of these activities. Further, it diversifies activities into three categories: SNA activities (activities that fall within the production boundary of the UN System of National Accounts), non-SNA activities (activities which are not included in national accounts but are covered under the General Production boundary and include delegable production of services) and personal services (non-delegable services eg. sleeping, watching TV, etc.). TUS sheds light on the specific activities the individuals in the reference population are engaged in. It also talks about the time spent on doing certain activities like, average number of hours in a day spent on travelling and unpaid domestic work among other activities.


Shift from NSSO to TUS:

  1. Women’s work has not been documented effectively in NSSO surveys as it provides generalized answers, not delving deeply into certain probing questions. NSSO data does not provide answers for restricted women’s participation based on geographical location. Also, there is a lack of occupational segregation in the survey.
  2. TUS focuses on capturing unpaid domestic activity and other non-market activities.
  3. Additionally it provides information on multiple and simultaneous activities and some other insights using context variables. These variables look at details of the activity, specifically looking into the location, presence of other people when the activity occurred, beneficiary perception, and monetary motivation behind the activity.
  4. TUS gives visibility to the care economy, captures time stress, and improves workforce estimates along with throwing light on the scattered and sporadic nature of informal work. It helps in understanding the percentage of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work by sex, age group, caste, religious group, and location wise.


Highlights from National TUS 2019:

They have coded 9 activities under TUS.

  1. Participation rates of women workers in unpaid domestic services for household members are 94.5% and 87.9% in rural and urban areas respectively. Compared to men workers, participation rates are 33.7% and 24.6% in rural and urban areas respectively.
  2. The average time spent by women workers on unpaid domestic services for household members are 4.1 hours and 3.6 hours in rural and urban areas respectively. On the other hand, the average time spent by male workers on unpaid domestic services for household members are 1.6 hours and 1.5 hours in rural and urban areas respectively.
  3. Under the unpaid domestic services, women are involved in care and maintenance of textiles, footwear, food and meals preparation and cleaning and maintenance of surroundings across both rural and urban areas.
  4. The average time spent by women in unpaid domestic work is around 2.5 hours, primarily in food and meal preparation. Digging deep into unpaid caregiving services, around 20-23% of women are engaged in childcare and instruction across rural and urban areas. Additionally, the average time spent on unpaid caregiving services, specifically in childcare and instruction is around 1.7 hours across both rural and urban areas for women.


Limitations of TUS:

  1. Inadequate capturing of informal work
  2. Lack of harmonization with international classification
  3. Methodological limitations
  4. Too expensive



  1. Addressing self-employment through TUS
  2. Addressing the concerns of marginalized communities across geographical regions
  3. Capacity building of stakeholders
  4. Mainstreaming TUS
  5. Need for revisiting and sharpening the use of context variables


If you would like to see the presentation, please visit the link here.

Incase you missed the online seminar, you may view it here.