On Unpaid (censusless) Work

Marilyn Waring contributed to the inspiration for the questions on Unpaid Work that were part of the Long Form Census (1996, 2001 and 2006).  The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has a copy of the film for free viewing: Who’s Counting: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics.  It is well worth the time to watch and learn about how those questions came about and why they are so important. I saw the film at the Main Public Library a couple of times, usually shown just before Census Day.

I guess women will just have to invent new professions again: educator, household engineer, recreation manager, child coordinator, plant supervisor, home health care provider and so on!  Watch the film for ideas.

These questions were scrapped by the “New” Government and for some odd reason, the National Statistics Council recommended that these questions be removed as part of their compromise offer to the Conservative Government.  It is claimed that this was the series of questions that generated the most inquiries.  Hmm!  What was the nature of the complaints and who made them?  I wonder if the anti childcare, stay at home & back to the kitchen, Tory lovin’ lobby called REAL Women had a posse working the phones!  ( I will inquire!)

As Stockwell Day indicated today (ahum) on the topic of ah, crimes stats, how can we know if things are not counted, but that does not mean we do not build an entire infrastructure of prison, just because we don’t know (ahum ahum). Hey does that mean we get daycare? Social Housing? Income supports and removal of claw backs for sole support parents? etc.  The argument used to be, show us the numbers.  The real numbers are gone, so we just have to communicate with our imaginary friends and make stuff up – alarming rate of un-reported crime – go figure ay. Well, it seems that with this government, the numbers just don’t matter.  Oye veigh!

Marilyn’s Book Counting for nothing: what men value and what women are worth was my first encounter with critical thinking and data.  I was in New Zealand and the friends I was staying with gave me the book as a souvenir!  It might be time to read it again!

The questions on unpaid work first appeared in the 1996 Long Form Census (see Q. 30 on 1996 Long Form Census and Q. 33 on 2001 Long Form Census).  We have 15 years of data and these are R.I.P.’d for 2011.  I guess unpaid work will cease to happen after that!

2006 Census Questions on Unpaid Work:

33. Last week, how many hours did this person spend doing the following activities:

(a) doing unpaid housework, yard work or home maintenance for members of this household, or others? Some examples include: preparing meals, washing the car, doing laundry, cutting the grass, shopping, household planning, etc.

  • None
  • Less than 5 hours
  • 5 to 14 hours
  • 15 to 29 hours
  • 30 to 59 hours
  • 60 hours or more

(b) looking after one or more of this person’s own children, or the children of others, without pay? Some examples include: bathing or playing with young children, driving children to sports activities or helping them with homework, talking with teens about their problems, etc.

  • None
  • Less than 5 hours
  • 5 to 14 hours
  • 15 to 29 hours
  • 30 to 59 hours
  • 60 hours or more

(c) providing unpaid care or assistance to one or more seniors? Some examples include: providing personal care to a senior family member, visiting seniors, talking with them on the telephone, helping them with shopping, banking or with taking medication, etc.

  • None
  • Less than 5 hours
  • 5 to 9 hours
  • 10 to 19 hours
  • 20 hours or more

These were just after education and just before paid work.  There is no long form Census for 2011 (so far anyway), there is this thing called a voluntary survey, and it does not include the questions on unpaid work.

What Men Value and What Women are Worth [Paperback]


  1. Yabut’s avatar

    Yeah, but to be fair, the GSS on Social Engagement does cover this (1st link below), and there’s data from it from 2008 (data tables at 2nd link below), with the next one to be run in 2013 (presumably). And one of the rec’s of the Advisory Counsel was for the mandatory census to just ask stuff that wasn’t covered well in other surveys.



  2. Tracey’s avatar

    Thanks Yabut; Yes, it is true that the GSS does ask related questions on an irregular basis for a small sample size (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89f0115x/89f0115x2009001-eng.htm). I love the GSS for large scale one off analysis. The survey is not helpful if you are trying to assess local neighbourhood trends, or changes within cities and particularly not helpful in rural areas. The GSS also regularly changes its questions, so you loose a longitudinal picture. The drivers of the Canadian economy are cities, that is where most Canadians live and small towns are changing fast. Only from the Census because of its sample size and even sample distribution, do we get a local picture from whence we can derive trends. We are going to loose the ability to see trends in our cities and rural areas will be devoid of data. That is the problem with this whole debate, scale, cities and rural areas. There is no replacement for the mandatory Long Form, and the GSS reverts to it to assess its results. We are loosing the spine of our analytical systems and the reference upon which to base other surveys like the GSS.

  3. Tracey’s avatar

    The author of this post wanted to remain anonymous, and thus was unable to submit his/herself. I have posted their comment from an email.

    1) On Unpaid (censusless) Work, I wrote (something like):

    Yeah, but to be fair, the Advisory Council did rec. that the mandatory census only cover areas that aren’t covered well in other surveys, but these areas _are_:

    unpaid housework in the GSS on Time Use, which runs every 5 years:



    and both unpaid housework & unpaid care / aka informal volunteering
    are covered in the GSS on Social Involvement,
    which last ran in 2008 (and before that, in 2003
    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-598-x/2003001/index-eng.htm ) and presumably will be again in 2013.

    See data tables at: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-640-x/2009001/tab/tab-eng.htm

  4. Kathleen Lahey’s avatar

    My understanding is that quite apart from the technical points you make above, Tracey, the GSS time use questions may in fact be slated for demolition.

    But maybe Day plans to collect this data through the new national identity system the gvt must be planning (like EU countries) to collect data through ‘other means’ that do not invade privacy by making people actually produce data about themselves. (If they don’t know data is being collected, how could they feel that their privacy is being infringed, right?)

  5. Yabut’s avatar

    Ok, you’re half-way to addressing the second of the National Statistics Council’s five tests for questions warranting inclusion in the (mandatory) Census [by arguing that the small area data won’t be there], but:

    1) the other half of that is still needed [viz., why is neigbourhood level data on that needed? for what purpose]; and
    2) it’s just their _minimum_ standard, that at least one of these tests are met; can you make the case that the good quality, drillable-down to the small geographic area, answers to the deleted unpaid work q’s on the long form meet any of these other tests besides (b)?

    a. It is required by legislation or Cabinet direction,
    b. It is needed for small-area data uses for which there is no alternative data source,
    c. It is needed to create benchmarks for measuring difficult-to-reach groups and ensuring that subsequent surveys or data derived from administrative sources can be sampled or weighted to reflect accurately the overall population,
    d. It is needed to assess progress on issues of national importance, for example the economic integration of new immigrants, or
    e. It is to be used as a basis for post-censal survey sampling of relatively small or dispersed groups, for example, urban Aboriginals or people with health conditions that limit their activity

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