Harmonised European Time Use Surveys (HETUS) – Overview
What are the Harmonised European Time Use Surveys?
The Harmonised European Time Use Surveys (HETUS) are national surveys conducted in European countries to quantify how much time people spend on various activities, including paid work, household chores and family care, personal care, voluntary work, social life, travel and leisure.
The main survey instruments are a household questionnaire, an individual questionnaire and a time-use diary in which respondents are asked to record their daily activities in 10-minute time slots. HETUS is held about once a decade on the basis of a gentlemen's agreement between participating countries and Eurostat.
So far, there have been 2 rounds of Harmonised European Time Use Surveys:
- HETUS 2000 (round 1, 1998-2006): conducted in 15 European countries.
- HETUS 2010 (round 2, 2008-2015): conducted in 18 European countries - 15 EU countries, 3 non-EU countries (Norway, Serbia and Turkey).
The next round is scheduled for 2020. The methodological manual, the main document with guidelines on harmonised data collection, was completed in early 2019. Many countries have not yet decided whether to conduct a time use survey (TUS) during round 3.
Comparability of results
Participating countries followed the methodological guidelines for the 2000 and 2010 rounds, using standardised survey designs and statistical classifications as far as possible. This means the resultant data should be largely comparable across countries. Moreover, the main components of the survey were kept stable over time, largely ensuring cross-time comparability. HETUS 2010 should thus be generally comparable with HETUS 2000.
However, HETUS collects detailed information on aspects of people's social lives only once a decade. Comparability over time is thus problematic, as many activities become obsolete during this period and are replaced by new ones. Moreover, the data collection period varies considerably across countries: in round 2 (2010), national data collection spans over 8 years (2008-2015).
Like any survey, time use surveys are based on representative population samples. Their results are therefore subject to the usual types of errors associated with random sampling. The accuracy of the results depends on the sample size, sampling design effects and the structure of the population under study. In addition, non-sampling errors need to be taken into account. For HETUS in particular, national statistical institutions (NSIs) decided the sampling size and design on the basis of their own precise needs. Sampling designs and sample sizes thus differ quite considerably from one country to another.
In the first quarter of 2019 Eurostat issued updated recommendations on further standardisation of HETUS. The corresponding 2018 guidelines for HETUS round 3 will include – for the first time – a detailed variable transmission list approved by the TUS Working Group, comprising representatives of Eurostat and EU countries.