Data on household living standards will be available by May

Harish Damodaran K. R. Srivats New Delhi | Updated on February 09, 2011




Expected to be the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on amenities and asset ownership

In about three months from now, corporates, policymakers and researchers will have access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on the living conditions, amenities and asset ownership (including consumer durables) of Indian households.

Government enumerators had last year undertaken a massive ‘House-listing and Housing Census', covering some 240 million households across the country's 640,852 villages and 8,001 towns.

Treasure trove

In this exercise spread over April-September - a precursor to the larger population enumeration under the 2011 Census - a wealth of primary data relating to ownership of mobile and landline phones (separately), computers/laptops (with and without Internet), bicycles, scooters/motorcycles/mopeds, cars/jeeps/vans, televisions and radios/transistors, besides access to banking services, were gathered.

The enumerators also canvassed questions pertaining to type of cooking fuel used (LPG/piped gas, kerosene, electricity, cow-dung cake, crop residue, bio-gas), sources of lighting (electricity, kerosene, solar, none) and drinking water (tap water from treated or un-treated source, covered or uncovered well, hand-pump, tube-well/borehole, spring, river, tank/pond), and presence or absence of bathing and toilet facilities (modern flush/pour, pit-type, service latrine) within the premises.

In addition to these, information was sought on the predominant material of the floor, wall and roof of each house (mud, thatch/bamboo, burnt brick, stone, cement), along with ownership status (whether rented or not) and the number of dwelling rooms.

“All this data have already been collected and are currently undergoing processing. We would be in a position to release the results by April-May,” the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, Dr C. Chandramouli, told Business Line.

2001 report card

The 2001 Census had revealed that 35.5 per cent of the country's then-191.96 million households to be availing itself of banking services. The availability of assets was placed at 35.1 per cent for radios/transistors, 31.6 per cent for televisions (64.3 per cent in urban areas), 9.1 per cent for telephones, 43.7 per cent for bicycles, 11.7 per cent for scooters/motor cycles/mopeds and 2.5 per cent for cars/jeeps/vans.

This time round, the authorities have introduced a new asset, computer/laptop with or without Internet, while also making a distinction between mobile and landline telephones. The 2011 Census is bound to show a huge jump in telephone penetration, though Dr Chandramouli emphasised that “we are only looking at whether a household has a connection and not how many connections”.

To the extent a household has multiple connections among its members — and also the possibility of the homeless (say, migrant construction workers) owning mobiles — there could be a difference between the telephone penetration figures in the Census and the actual subscriber numbers put out by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

While the ownership of consumer durables will be of interest to marketers, of no less importance would be the progress with regard to basic sanitation conditions. The 2001 Census had revealed a whopping 63.6 per cent of Indian households to have no latrines within their premises and 53.6 per cent with no drainage connectivity for wastewater outflow. The irony of mobile phone penetration being twice that of latrines has already been widely written about. Moreover, 52.5 per cent of households used firewood as cooking fuel and only 17.5 per cent LPG.

Credibility factor

The Census data is considered the most authentic source of information on the living standards of Indians, as it involves visiting each and every household. That makes it different from the quinquennial consumer expenditure surveys of the National Sample Survey Organisation, which are based on a statistical sample size of roughly 1.5 lakh households.

Even the National Council of Applied Economic Research's market information surveys cover only around 60,000 households. The fact that the Census results on household amenities and assets — and covering the most recent period — will be out within the next few months is certainly most welcome.

Published on February 08, 2011

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