Consumption basket expanded, revamped consumer expenditure survey begins July 1

The government will launch fieldwork for the new Consumer Expenditure Survey on July 1, with the revamp including features such as three visits by an enumerator to a household to seek more detailed information on their consumption basket.

The basket itself has been expanded in the new round. The largest category of ‘miscellaneous’ items has been segregated for detailed collection of data on consumption of those items, along with inclusion of items which have seen higher consumption trends in recent times. Also, detailed questions for seeking inputs on welfare subsidies such as food grains are learnt to have been included.

About 1,700 investigators are likely to be engaged in the revamped consumer expenditure survey, as against 800-900 earlier, people aware of the development said.

The three visits to a household to collect data on consumption expenditure will entail seeking information on daily use items, regular items and consumer durables and will help draw poverty estimates after a decade-long gap. The survey will cover around 1.2 lakh households in rural areas and around 84,000 households in urban areas.

The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) is usually conducted at quinquennial (every five years) intervals and the last survey was conducted in the 68th round (July 2011 to June 2012). The government had, however, junked the 2017-18 findings of the consumer expenditure survey citing “quality issues”. Studies based on leaked survey findings had pointed to a rise in poverty levels in 2017-18. The new survey will be conducted till June next year and the results are then likely to come in by October next year.

“The single largest and fastest growing item in the basket was ‘miscellaneous’, which is capturing many things that get clubbed together. It had to be broken down into different items. The three visits will include the first visit to cover items of daily consumption, which is asked on a 7-day basis. The second visit will capture details of items which are regular items but not used on a daily basis, that’s on a 30-day basis. And then they will collect data on durables which would be on a 365-day basis,” a source said.

In this round of consumer expenditure survey, the category of miscellaneous items has been broken down to collect information separately on them along with more detailed questions on food, education and health. “It was felt that the earlier schedule doesn’t capture goods and services which have come more recently and they should be included. Also, it was felt that survey time should not be more than 40 minutes. So, as it is, the old schedule used to take two hours, now by adding more items it’ll take more time. So it was decided to be split into three visits of approximately 40 minutes each and collect different parts of the schedule at different points of time. The same investigator will visit the same house on each visit,” the source said.

Experts pointed out that the issues arising out of the revamped procedure would include an increase in the working time and a possibility of overestimating consumption. Also, the changes in data collection, items and methodology may make the results incomparable with previous consumer expenditure surveys and new poverty estimates will have to be drawn since they won’t be consistent with earlier ones, they said.

A pilot for this revamped consumer expenditure survey was conducted in 2020 by undertaking the three-round process. “Training of trainers has been done. Training of field staff is being done now before the launch of July 1,” the source said.

The consumer expenditure survey aims at generating estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE) and the distribution of households and persons over the MPCE range separately for the rural and urban sectors across the country and for different socio-economic groups. It is designed to collect information regarding expenditure on consumption of goods and services (food and non-food) consumed by households. The results are then also used for rebasing of the GDP and other macroeconomic indicators.

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