The central statistics office is conducting an all-India time-use survey to find out how Indians spend their time. The idea is to find out how people spend their 24 hours to generate greater understanding of the quality of development. GDP is quantitative, measuring the value of goods and services produced. Among the activities that have been identified are partying at a club, going to a restaurant, preparing for exams, moving house, looking for office. Time-use statistics help explore a wide range of issues in a bid to arrive at an estimation of the quality of life and social safety nets—division of labour, allocation of time for household work, estimation of the value of household production, transportation, leisure and recreation, and pension plans. This is a welcome move. The data may throw light on issues such as child labour as well as illegal activities such as gambling, prostitution and begging, with state-wise comparisons.
In the survey conducted in 1998-99, the prevalence of child labour was found to be 4.5 per cent which, though bad enough, is better than what is commonly supposed. Similarly, contrary to general perception, about 87 per cent of the women said that they participated in household decision-making. Interestingly, there was no rural-urban divide in this respect, nor was there any major difference between the social groups. What is more, even 88 per cent of illiterate women said that they were a part of decision-making. Evidently, there is little difference between formal illiteracy and innate intelligence.
As these findings show, surveys of this nature reflect the social and economic realities and help to dispel many misconceptions. As more of them are conducted, the collected data will help the governments at the Centre and in the states to focus on areas which need special attention. For instance, it will be worthwhile ascertaining why the percentage of disabled persons is highest in Odisha, followed by Haryana and Gujarat, and framing the medical and rehabilitation policies accordingly.