The objective of measuring time use is to give a description of the time use, living conditions and lifestyle of as much of the population as possible. Time use diary is the tool used to register time-use. Time use diary can be an open-system (it works with open time intervals, where the number of registered activities can be different based on the length of respondents' activities) or a closed-system (it works with closed – fixed 10 or 15 minutes – time intervals) diary. The observation unit of time use is one day's time use of one person, i.e. one man-day. The number of observations corresponds to the number of diaries.
The description shall be comparable with previous national researches, shall provide a differentiated picture reflecting the basic socio-demographic strata, while regarding its main characteristics (list of activities, living condition indices), it shall comply with the Eurostat time-use data recording requirements.
In most of the surveys coordinated by Eurostat, data is collected from all members of the household concerning the same day, using self-completion method. However, during data collection in Hungary, on the day following the designated day, the interviewer fills in the time-use diary in the framework of a so-called yesterday interview about the entire daily time use on the pre-defined days of one person designated to be surveyed per household. In the course of recent data collections, the activities of the respondents detailed in their own words were recorded by the interviewer in a traditional paper-based diary. During the coding process, activities described in their own words were matched to numeric codes.
In Hungary, the study of the time use of the population has been carried out since the beginning of the 1960s with a frequency of approximately ten years. In addition to time use data, data collections also provides information on other topics, such as: travel habits, household management, reading habits. The surveys are representative of the given population and the whole annual period, also of seasons, months and days of the week.
The methodology of data collection has changed to some extent over the decades, for example, the age limit of the sample was constantly widening (the studied population was in the years of data collection: non-students aged 18–60 in 1963, total population aged 15–69 in 1976/77, aged 15–79 in 1986/87, aged 15–84 in 1999/2000 and aged 10–84 in 2009/2010). The data collection in 2009/2010 differed from the previous data collections concerning the number of time use diaries recorded. While in the – course of the year-round – data collections before 2009/2010, one person completed one time use diary per season, i.e. four during the whole year, in 2009/2010 one person completed two time use diaries, one about a weekday and one about a weekend day throughout the whole year (although, the first recorded time use diary was used for the calculations). The number of persons included in the sample is thus almost similar in the four surveys, however, the number of time use diaries representing the unit of analysis in 2009/2010 is significantly lower compared to previous data collections. The list of the recordable daily activities in the data collections has changed reflecting the changes in social, economic and political life.
The number of the coded activities in the data collections was the following: in 1963: 25, in 1976/77: 99, in 1986/87: 480, in 1999/2000: 508, in 2009/2010: 548 elementary activities.
The time use diary contains all activities performed during the 24 hours of the day in chronological order. One of the important features of Hungarian time use survey is that it works with open time intervals (open-system diary). This means that respondents can enter the length of their activities as they wish, without having to classify them into fixed 5 or 10 minute time intervals (closed-system diary).
The front page of the diary contains the specific data of the defined day. The data needed to interpret time use are collected in separate questionnaires. Thus, the data collection is supplemented with the data of the interviewed person related to education, employment and health status, as well as with the specific information of the household. The survey therefore consists of a household questionnaire, an individual questionnaire and a time use diary.
One line in the diary correspond to an activity of the day. It includes in addition to the name of the activity the followings:
The Hungarian time use diary differs from the European standards in a way that it also records to whom an activity was performed (for example, whether it was a work done for one's own household or for money). It is also a Hungarian feature that the participants and people only present during the activity are distinguished.
Daily average time use: The daily average time calculated in minutes for all the examined activities of the entire population (or population group), the total (the 24 hours of the day) of which is 1440 minutes.
Percent of participants in activities in average day: The percentage proportion of those performing the individual activities on an average day, expresses the frequency of performing an activity. It is defined by two factors: how widespread a given activity is within the population and how regularly it is performed by those in question. The average daily frequency of activities performed daily by (nearly) everybody (e.g. sleeping, eating) is approximately 100%. The individual data are independent of each other, and cannot be summed up by column or by line.
Time spent per participant in activities in average day: The average time in minutes used by the (actual) performer of an individual activity in an average day. The data in the cells are independent of each other, and no calculation operations can be performed on them, either in a column or in a row.
Average day: An average day is the mean average of the days represented with the same weight within the data registration time-period.
Activity classification: The activity classification system used in data processing for examining time use structure is the hierarchical structure of the elementary activities and the groupings of different levels formed from these by functions and types: categories, groups and blocks.
People living in private households: People living in private and not in institutional (barrack, correctional institution, disabled / psychiatric / addicted homes) households.
The sampling unit of time-use (person): The sampling unit of time use is the person defined by his/her socio-demographic characteristics (sex, age etc.) as well as by his/her own household characteristics (e.g. size of the household).
The time sample of the time use register: The time use registers represent the time use referring to a defined period of time. The time period is defined by the first and last day fixed for registering. This time period may be one year, one or two quarters, one or two months or even one or two weeks. In case of a yearly time use, the register may be continuous or periodically interrupted (e.g. one or two months seasonally). Depending on the size of the sample and the time period of registration, the days may be defined in two ways: