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Time Use Survey: 2009/10
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  21 June 2011

Time use surveys | History of time use surveys in New Zealand  |  Key objectives of the Time Use Survey: 2009/10  |  How data was collected  |  Activity classification and how it was used to measure time use  |  Key definitions

Time use surveys

Time use surveys (TUS) measure the ways in which different population groups spend their time. TUS data illustrates how activity choices are affected by different circumstances and responsibilities; for example an individual’s family role. The data also provides information on productive activities that are unpaid or voluntary, and not measured using existing economic statistics.

More specifically, TUS are important because they:

  • assist in better measurements of economic growth by providing information on the time spent on goods and services outside the market sector. For example, activities in the household and voluntary sector
  • provide information on the economic contribution of the household sector. TUS are the only current source of information for producing reliable estimates on the value of household production
  • provide additional measures of well-being
  • collect information on work/life balance, analysis by sex, work-family balance, work and education, and the relationship between people’s paid and unpaid work
  • collect information on social and leisure time and measure social contact, which is a key indicator of well-being
  • collect information on transport
  • collect information relevant to public health, such as the allocation of time between active and passive activities.

TUS differ from other household surveys in that the unit of analysis is diary days, not people. The data's main purpose is for analysis of time spent on activities on a diary day, rather than the count of people.

History of time use surveys in New Zealand

The first New Zealand TUS was carried out in 1998/99, sponsored by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and designed by Statistics New Zealand. The Time Use Survey: 2009/10 is the second national time use survey, and was designed and conducted by Statistics NZ.

Key objectives of the Time Use Survey: 2009/10

The 2009/10 survey incorporated new information needs while maintaining comparability with the Time Use Survey: 1998/99 and allowing comparison with international TUS.

The survey was designed to answer these key research questions:

  • Work-life balance – how do people divide their time between paid work, unpaid work, family, and leisure?
  • How do people schedule their paid work, and where do they do it?
  • How socially connected are people with family and/or friends, from inside and outside their own household?
  • How much does unpaid work contribute to the New Zealand economy?
  • How do people spend their leisure time?
  • Who is caring for whom, for how much time, and where?

How data was collected

The survey consisted of a household questionnaire and a person questionnaire, and a diary. Respondents recorded their use of time in the diary by entering what activity they were doing, what other activities they were doing at the same time, who they were with, where they were at the time, and for whom any unpaid work activities were done. Data was collected about who the respondent was with for the first time in 2009/10. 

More information on the data collection methodology is included in the Data quality section.

Activity classification and how it was used to measure time use

The activity classification includes all activities which the general population may spend their time on. The classification’s main purpose is to provide a set of activity categories that diary entries could be coded to.

More information on the activity classification, including necessary, contracted, committed, and free time explanations, is available in the Data quality section.

Key definitions

Diary day

A diary day is a continuous 24-hour period during which respondents reported their activities. Each respondent was asked to complete their diary for two consecutive diary days.

When the total number of diary days is referred to, a person can be counted twice. For example if 100 people participated in an activity on just one day, and 200 participated on two days, that is a total of 500 diary days.

Mean (average) time spent per day on an activity

This is the mean time spent on an activity within a 24-hour period, across all people and their diary days.

This is reported in two ways:

  • mean time spent on an activity across all diary days, regardless of whether the activity occurred 
  • mean time spent on an activity across all diary days where the activity was actually recorded. This is the time spent by participants.

The diary was not designed to measure general participation in activities as the data was only collected for a two-day period. The main objective was to measure time use. Therefore the published time for participants does not include people who participated in an activity on their non-diary-days. For example, many people only work Monday to Friday. If their diary days include a Saturday, a Sunday, or both, they won't be counted as having spent time at work.

Participation rate in an activity

Participation rate is the proportion of diary days where a respondent participated in an activity. For example, if the number of people in the sample was 50 this would be 100 diary days. If on 72 of these days paid work was performed, the participation rate would be 72 percent.

Note: The participation rate can only be used to explain participation on the diary days, not a general participation rate.

The only estimates which present general proportions of the population participating in activities are those within table 11 which covers a four-week period.

Primary activities and simultaneous activities

The first column in the TUS 2009/10 diary was headed ‘What were you doing?’ Any activity listed in this column was considered a primary activity.

A simultaneous activity occurs at the same time as the primary activity and is recorded in the second column of their time-use diary. This column was headed ‘What else were you doing at the same time?’

The data reflects a respondent’s main activity alongside additional activities they were doing at the same time. For example, a person could record ‘cooking dinner for family’ as their primary activity and ‘watching TV’ as simultaneous activity, or vice versa.

Productive activities and non-productive activities

Productive activities include labour force activities, household work, child and family care, purchasing goods and services, community services, and all other types of unpaid work.

Note: 91 percent of time spent on labour force activities is work for pay or profit (including work on family business or farm). The remaining 9 percent consists of job search activities, work-related training, and travel associated with labour force activities.

Non-productive activities are for personal benefit only, and include education and training, personal care, and free-time activities. A person cannot contract out non-productive activities to anyone else. For example, while a person can contract out their housework, they cannot contract out their time watching television.

Unpaid work

Unpaid work covers household work, child care, purchasing goods and services, and any other unpaid work. All unpaid work activities are productive activities.

These activities include:

  • informal unpaid work done for other households or a respondent’s own household
  • formal unpaid work (also known as formal volunteering) is work done for, or arranged through, an organisation or group (eg marae or church group).
Unpaid work structure

Image, Unpaid work. 

Further concepts and definitions are defined in the Data quality section.

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