General Social Survey - Time Use (GSS)

Detailed information for 1992 (Cycle 7)




Every 5 years

Record number:


The two primary objectives of the General Social Survey (GSS) are: to gather data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well being of Canadians over time; and to provide information on specific social policy issues of current or emerging interest.

This survey monitors changes in Time Use.

Data release - 1993


The two primary objectives of the General Social Survey (GSS) are: to gather data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well being of Canadians over time; and to provide information on specific social policy issues of current or emerging interest.

The data collected provide information to all level of governments when making funding decisions, developing priorities and identifying areas of concern for legislation, new policies and programs. Researchers and other users use this information to inform the general Canadian population about the changing nature of time use in Canada.

Statistical activity

This record is part of the General Social Survey (GSS) program. The GSS, originating in 1985, conducts telephone surveys. Each survey contains a core topic, focus or exploratory questions and a standard set of socio-demographic questions used for classification. More recent cycles have also included some qualitative questions, which explore opinions and perceptions.

Until 1998, the target sample of respondents was approximately 10,000 persons. This was increased in 1999 to 25,000. With a sample of respondents of 25,000, results are available at both the national and provincial levels and possibly for some special population groups such as disabled persons and seniors.


  • Commuting to work
  • Labour
  • Society and community
  • Time use

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population includes all persons 15 years of age and older in Canada, excluding:
1. Residents of the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut
2. Full-time residents of institutions.

Respondents were contacted and interviewed by telephone. Thus persons in households without telephones could not be interviewed. However, persons living in such households represent less than 2% of the target population.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

The survey employed Random Digit Dialling (RDD), a telephone sampling method. Households without telephones were therefore excluded, however, persons living in such households represent less than 2% of the target population. Survey estimates have been adjusted (weighted) to represent persons without telephones.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: January 1992 to December 1992

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Two questionnaires were used to conduct the interviews: the Selection Control Form (GSS 7-1) and the main questionnaire, the GSS 7-2. Respondents were interviewed in the official language of their choice. The French and English versions of the main questionnaire were identical with the exception of question K13 "What language did you first speak in childhood?". Respondents were not asked if they still understood the language in which they were being interviewed.

Questionnaires and procedures were field tested in July 1991 in Halifax and Montreal. Data collection began the third week of January 1992 and continued through the third week of December 1992. The sample was evenly distributed over the 12 months. All interviewing took place using centralized telephone facilities in five of Statistics Canada's regional offices with calls being made from approximately 9 a.m. until 9:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday inclusive. The five regional offices were: Halifax, Montreal, Sturgeon Falls, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Interviewers were trained by Statistics Canada staff in telephone interviewing techniques, survey concepts and procedures in a two day classroom training session. The majority of interviewers had previous telephone interviewing experience.

Data for Cycle 7 of the GSS was collected monthly from January to December, 1992. The sample was evenly distributed over the 12 months to counterbalance seasonal variation in the information gathered. It was then divided equally among the seven days of the week. The sample was selected using the Elimination of Non-Working Banks technique of Random Digit Dialling (RDD).

The Elimination of Non-Working Banks (ENWB) sampling technique is a method of Random Digit Dialling in which an attempt is made to identify all working banks for an area (i.e., to identify all banks with at least one household). Thus, all telephone numbers within non-working banks are eliminated from the sampling frame.

For each province, lists of telephone numbers in use were purchased from the telephone companies and lists of working banks were extracted. Each bank was assigned to a stratum within its province.

A special situation existed in Ontario and Quebec because some small areas are serviced by independent telephone companies rather than by Bell Canada. The area code prefixes for these areas were identified by matching the Bell file with a file of all area codes and prefixes. Area code prefixes from Ontario and Quebec and not on the Bell file were identified. All banks within these area code prefixes were generated and added to the sampling frame. Use of the Waksberg method was not possible for these areas since it requires that an accurate population estimate be available for the survey area. Such an estimate was not available for the parts of Ontario and Quebec not covered by Bell.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Error detection

All survey records were subjected to an exhaustive computer edit to identify and correct invalid or inconsistent information on the questionnaires. For the second time, a batch edit system was implemented for use in the Regional Offices. The system mainly edited the GSS 7-2 for possible flow errors, values out of range and missing values. Edits on the GSS 7-1 were limited to a few edits for the respondent's age and sex. In the event the interviewer was unable to correctly resolve the detected errors, it was possible for the interviewer to bypass the edit and forward the data to head office for resolution.

Head office edits performed the same checks as the batch edit system as well as more detailed edits. Records with missing or incorrect information were assigned non-response codes or corrected from other information from the respondent's questionnaire. In most cases editing was 'bottom-up', meaning that specific related information following a question with a branching pattern was employed to ensure the branching was correct. For example, question D5 'Do you pay anyone, on a regular basis, to help out with cleaning your house?' was edited in relation to question D6 'How often do you use this service?' Correlation edits were also conducted, for example, question K11 of the Time Use Questionnaire was 'In what year did you first immigrate to Canada?'. This question was edited in relation to the respondent's age as derived from question K12 'What is your date of birth?'. These edits ensured that the information was consistent and complete among questions.

Due to the nature of the survey, imputation was not appropriate for most items and thus 'not stated' codes were usually assigned for missing data. In some cases, the answer was not known but could be obtained deterministically by the questions which followed or from information from other areas of the survey.

Non-response was not permitted for those items required for weighting. Values were imputed in the rare cases where any of the following were missing: age, sex, and number of residential telephone lines. The imputation was based on a detailed examination of the questionnaire and the consideration of any useful data such as age and sex of other household members, and interviewer's comments.

Data from the survey questionnaires were entered directly into mini-computers at Statistics Canada's regional offices (ROs) and subsequently transmitted to Head Office in Ottawa. The data capture program allowed for a valid range of codes for each question and automatically followed the flow of the questionnaire.

A number of variables on the file have been derived by using items found on the GSS 7-1 and GSS 7-2 questionnaires. Derived variable names generally start with DV and are followed by characters referring to the question number or subject. In some cases, the derived variables are straightforward and involve collapsing of categories. In other cases, several variables have been combined to create a new variable. The data dictionaries provide comments indicating the origin of these variables.

A major source of non-sampling errors in surveys is the effect of non-response on the survey results. The extent of non-response varies from partial non-response (failure to answer just one or some questions) to total non-response. Total non-response occurred because the interviewer was either unable to contact the respondent, no member of the household was able to provide the information, or the respondent refused to participate in the survey. Total non-response was handled by adjusting the weight of households who responded to the survey to compensate for those who did not respond.

In most cases, partial non-response to the survey occurred when the respondent did not understand or misinterpreted a question, refused to answer a question, could not recall the requested information.

Errors which are not related to sampling may occur at almost every phase


Statistics from the General Social Survey (GSS) databases are estimates based on data collected from a small fraction of the population (roughly one person in 2,000) and are subject to error. The error can be divided into two components: sampling error and non-sampling error.

When a probability sample is used, as was the case for the GSS, the principle behind estimation is that each person selected in the sample 'represents' (in addition to himself/herself) several other persons not in the sample. For example, in a simple random sample of 2% of the population, each person in the sample represents 50 persons in the population.

Three microdata files were created for the General Social Survey based on information from the Time Use Questionnaire (i.e. the GSS 7-2): the Main File which contains information from 9,815 respondents who answered questions on unpaid help, cultural activities and organized sport, the Time Use Summary File which contains information from 8,996 respondents who answered the time use questions and the Time Use Episode File which contains information describing detailed time use activities for the 8,996 respondents on the Time Use Summary File as well as the activities of those who refused to complete a full diary. The 8,996 respondents who answered time use questions are a subset of the 9,815 respondents who answered the unpaid help, cultural activities and organized sport questions.

The weighting factor on the Main File (FWGHT) was placed on each record to indicate the number of persons that the record represents. This weighting factor refers to the number of times a particular record should contribute to a population estimate. The value of FWGHT is summed over all records with this characteristic.

Similarly, the Time Use Summary File, has a weighting factor (TIMEWGT) which was placed on each record to indicate the number of persons that the record represents. The Time Use Summary File weighting process is the same as the one for the Main File.

Records on the Time Use Episode File have the same weight as the Time Use Summary File. This file is structured differently from the Main and the Time Use Summary Files.

Sampling error is the difference between the estimate derived from a sample and the result that would have been obtained from a population census using the same data collection procedures. For a sample survey such as the GSS, this error is estimated from the survey data. The measurement of error used is the standard deviation of the estimate. When a sampling error is more than 33 1/3% of the estimate itself, it is considered to be too unreliable to be published. In such a case, the symbol " --" appears in statistical tables in place of the estimate. When the sampling error is between 16 2/3% and 33 1/3%, the corresponding estimate is accompanied by the symbol " * " in a table. Such estimates should be used with caution. Finally, all estimates with a sampling error of less than 16 2/3% can be used without restriction.

All other types of errors, such as coverage, response, processing, and non-response, are non-sampling errors.

Many of these errors are difficult to identify and quantify.

Coverage errors arise when there are differences between the target population and the surveyed population. Households without telephones represent a part of the target population that was excluded from the surveyed population. To the extent that this excluded population differs from the rest of the target population, the estimates will be biased. Since these exclusions are small, one would expect the biases introduced to be small. However, since there are correlations between a number of questions asked on this survey and the groups excluded, the biases may be more significant than the small size of the groups would suggest.

Individuals residing in institutions were excluded from the surveyed population. The effect of this exclusion is greatest for people aged 65 and over, for whom

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Data accuracy

Approximate variances for quantitative variables cannot be as conveniently summarized. As a general rule, however, the coefficient of variation of a quantitative total will be larger than the coefficient of variation of the corresponding qualitative estimate (e.g., the number of persons contributing to the quantitative estimate). If the corresponding qualitative estimate is not releasable, then the quantitative total will in general not be releasable.

Before releasing and/or publishing any estimates from the microdata file, users should consider whether or not to release the estimate based on the following guidelines:

1.Moderate sampling variability (c.v. 0.0 to 16.5%) - Estimates can be considered for general unrestricted release. No special notation is required.

2. High sampling variability (16.6 to 33.3%) - Estimates can be considered for general unrestricted release but should be accompanied by a warning cautioning users of the high sampling variability associated with the estimates.

3. Very high sampling variability (c.v. 33.4% or over) - Estimates should generally not be released, but when they are it should be with great caution and the very high sampling variability associated with the estimate should be prominently noted.

Note: The sampling variability policy should be applied to rounded estimates.

Users should determine the number of records on the particular microdata file which contribute to the calculation of a given estimate. This number should be 15 or more. When the number of contributors to the weighted estimate is less than this, the weighted estimate should not be released regardless of the value of the Approximate Coefficient of Variation.


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