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Canada's General Social Survey on Time Use: Challenges and Potential

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3. New content

3.1 Pilot test (new content)
3.2 Time use diary
3.3 Volunteer activities
3.4 Health and activity limitations
3.5 Adult training
3.6 Social capital
3.7 Physical activities
3.8 Transportation
3.9 Culture activities
3.10 Sports participation activities
3.11 Content for main survey

The GSS collection is done via CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview) using BLAISE software. With CATI, interviews are conducted over the phone and simultaneously entered in a computer that guides the interviewer through the questionnaire. Telephone interviews for the 2005 GSS on Time Use are being made from Edmonton, Halifax, Winnipeg and Sherbrooke to private households across the 10 provinces.

To encourage participation in the Time Use survey, respondents were sent an introductory letter prior to data collection. The letter serves several other functions. It explains the purpose of the survey and assures the respondent that their information will be kept strictly confidential. It also provides printed confirmation that the survey is being conducted by Statistics Canada and a toll-free number for any questions respondents might have.

3.1 Pilot test (new content)

The pilot test was conducted in July, 2004. In order to include more content in the main survey, it was decided to split the sample. Half of the respondents were asked the questions on cultural and sports activities and the other half, questions on social networks and transportation. To ensure that this would function well in the main survey, this aspect was tested in the pilot as well.

3.2 Time use diary

3.2.1 Collection of the diary

The first two cycles of time use data were collected using paper and pencil. Interviewers wrote the details of the episode, as described by the respondent, and a senior interviewer coded the activity after collection of the questionnaire. In 1998, Cycle 12 was the first time use cycle to use CATI. The interviewers were provided with screens to assist in categorizing the episode details to one of the activity codes. Although Cycle 19 has used a different CATI system (i.e., Blaise), the same methodology of providing screens to assist in coding the episode details is being used.

3.2.2 Activity coding structure

Over the course of the cycles of time use data, GSS has modified the coding structure for the activities reported in the diary.

In the first GSS time use survey, a total of 93 two-digit activity codes were used, along with 3 non-response codes (missing time gaps, refusal and activities not stated). These codes could then be collapsed into the 10 basic activity groups:

  • Employed work
  • Domestic work
  • Care giving for household members
  • Shopping and services
  • Personal care
  • School and education
  • Organizational, voluntary and religious activity
  • Entertainment (attending)
  • Sports and hobbies (participating)
  • Media and communication

Consultations for the second time use cycle expressed a need for the details of the amount and type of unpaid work provided by Canadians. As well, with the first inclusion of GSS focus content examining participation in organized sports, cultural and recreational activities, GSS expanded the coding structure to three-digit activity codes. GSS took care to insure, that for the most part, the new coding structure could be collapsed to that of the Cycle 2 structure, so that comparisons could be made between how Canadians spent their time in 1986 and 1992.

Seventy-two new codes were added for Cycle 7. Over a third of these new codes were added to the Sports and Hobbies (Participating) section. General computer use could now be identified. The time spent on domestic home crafts and hobbies which Canadians intended to sell or exchange, along with their associated travel time, were collected. The vast majority of the new codes in this section recognized the particular types of physical and outdoor activities (e.g., bicycling, swimming, team sports) in which Canadians participate.

The next major addition of codes was in identifying unpaid work activities for both inside and outside the household. The unpaid work activity of coaching, and its travel related code, was introduced in the Sports and Hobbies (Participating) section. In 1986, it had been grouped with participating in sports and physical exercise.

Nine new codes were added to the domestic work section. The single code for home repairs in Cycle 2 could now provide four separate estimates for interior and exterior maintenance and repair, vehicle maintenance, and for other home improvements. Activities previously coded to the other household work code now had two additional categories, household administration (e.g., bill paying, writing shopping lists) and stacking and cutting firewood. Cycle 12 also included a new code to this sub-category for unpacking groceries. After the collection of the Cycle 12 data, two additional codes (Packing or Unpacking Luggage and/or Car and Packing and Unpacking for a Move of the Household) were derived from the written specified answers.

In the Organizational, Voluntary and Religious activity section, eight new codes were created. These new codes would now provide estimates on the time Canadians spent performing housework and cooking assistance, house maintenance and repairs, transportation assistance and other types of care for people outside their household.

In Cycle 2, the 20's codes were used for estimates of care to children. GSS expanded this in 1992 to include all care giving for other household members. Personal care and medical care to other household adults' codes were created. These activities were included in the personal care codes in 1986. Unpaid babysitting also received its own code in 1992, while specific child care activities were provided their own codes (i.e., putting children to bed, getting children ready for school and personal care for children) in 1998.

The non-diary component of Cycle 7 collected weekly, monthly and yearly participation rates for Canadians attending selected cultural events. The diary activities in the Entertainment section were expanded to provide separate estimates for attendance at museums, art galleries and heritage sites. The pop music, fairs and concerts code used in 1986 was split into three codes (i.e., attending pop music and/or concerts, fairs and festivals, zoos).

The visiting and entertaining friends/relatives code in 1986 was split up to capture three distinct types of socializing in 1992. The first two codes represent socializing with friends and/or relatives at a private residence with a meal and without a meal. The third code provided estimates of socializing at a non-private residence. For Cycle 12 this code was further split to socializing at an institutional residence (e.g., hospital, retirement home) and socializing at a non- institutional and non-private residence (e.g., shopping mall). Cycle 12 also added a new code to the Entertainment section to provide estimates on attendance at casinos, bingos and arcades.

With this expansion in 1992, not only did unpaid work, sports and cultural activities provide more details, other major categories provided greater information. Separate estimates of work for pay were now accessible for those Canadians with more than one job. As well, estimates of time performing overtime work, the time looking for work, and the time spent doing unpaid work in a family business or farm were available.

Minor changes were made to the Shopping and Services section. The sub-category of 'Everyday shopping' was split into three new codes; shopping for groceries, shopping for everyday goods and products (e.g., clothing, gas), and ordering and waiting for takeout food. Cycle 12 also include a code for rental of videos within this sub-category. Individual estimates for financial services, government services and automotive maintenance and repair services were also now available.

In the Media and Communication section, four different categories for television viewing were created for Cycle 7. As well, separate estimates for the time reading books and the time reading magazines could be produced.

As stated above, travel codes related to particular activities or groups of activities were created. Estimates of travel for restaurant meals, for religious services, for socializing, for attending sports and entertainment events, and for civic and voluntary activities were also available.

While Cycle 7 underwent the major expansion of the activity coding structure, Cycle 12 added 12 new codes and Cycle 19 has included 4 new codes. These new codes for 2005 include three categories designed to estimate the time spent using a computer for e-mail, in chat rooms, and for other Internet communications, such as MSN or ICQ. As well for Cycle 19, GSS re-introduced the activity code for waiting and queuing for services. In Cycle 12, this code had been dropped and interviewers were instructed to include the time spent waiting/queuing with the shopping or service.

After reviewing the specified answers in Cycle 19, it's possible that some new codes could be created.

Appendix 1 shows how the activity codes have been expanded over the GSS time use cycles.

3.3 Volunteer activities

The Cycle 12 questions were replaced by the "Volunteer and Charitable Giving" module used on C17 (Social Engagement).

3.4 Health and activity limitations

This module was new to Cycle 19 and based on the standard set of questions used on the 2001 Census and the 2001 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey.

3.5 Adult training

In response to HRSDC's input, a module on courses and training programs related to a current or future job was included on the pilot test. These questions were taken from a Statistics Canada Survey on Adult Education and Training (AETS).

3.6 Social capital

Given the strong interest in social capital outlined above, two modules on social networks and a third containing questions about how respondents view other people were included on the pilot test. The first of the two modules on social networks was "Close Ties". The intent was to collect information on strong ties or relationships which offer the kind of assistance and support that come from affection, willingness to help and considerable knowledge of each other. Having close family and intimate friends helps with many things, from coping with everyday problems to living longer. Respondents were asked about people in their life they felt very close to who lived outside their household.

The second module was "Weak Ties". Weak ties connect people to a wide range of potential resources that can assist them in work, health and civic engagement. Respondents were asked whether or not they knew someone in occupations ranging from high to low in prestige. The premise of these questions is that people in different occupations differ from each other in terms of education, family background and lifestyles. A person's occupation is a good indicator of one's social roles and resources and, therefore, the type of help they might be able to provide. The specific occupations were chosen to represent different sectors of the economy.

Finally, a module on "Trust" was included. Trust is factor that has been found to be a very important determinant of social engagement and well-being. A few questions which measure the "radius" of trust, from people who are close to the respondent, to strangers were asked. This module was a shorter version of the one used in Cycle 17, Social Engagement in Canada.

3.7 Physical activities

In response to input from Health Canada, a module on physical activities was added. These were activities related to leisure time activities; not related to work. This was a separate module from the Sports Participation Activities module.

3.8 Transportation

In response to input from time use researchers and Transport Canada, three modules regarding driver's license, access to a vehicle and use of public transportation were included.

3.9 Culture activities

Due to space constraints, the 1998 culture activities module was shortened for 2005, in collaboration with the Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics.

3.10 Sports participation activities

Based on input from Sports Canada, some minor changes were made to this module. These included asking respondents if they participated in a sport activity in a structured or unstructured environment; and for competition or recreation. Some sport activity descriptions were deleted, some added and some updated.

3.11 Content for main survey

As for the pilot test, the sample was split with one half of the respondents being asked questions on social networks and transportation and the other half asked questions on their cultural and sports participation.

Due to space constraints, the modules on Courses and Training Programs and Physical Activities had to be dropped from the main survey. The Social Networks Weak Ties module was also dropped. While it was not on the pilot test, the Enjoyment module from C12 was included for the main survey. Minor changes were made to the Public Transportation module.

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Date modified: 2006-11-20 Important Notices