The All-India Household Consumer Expenditure Survey, usually conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO) every five years, is set to resume this year after a prolonged break.
India hasn’t had any official estimates on per capita household spending, used to arrive at estimates of poverty levels in different parts of the country and to review economic indicators like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), since 2011–12. The government had junked the findings of the last Survey, conducted in 2017–18, citing “data quality” issues.
“A decision has been taken to conduct the Survey from July and we have begun planning exercises to train the enumerators who will carry out the 2022–23 Survey on the ground,” an official aware of the development told The Hindu. Typically, the Survey is conducted between July and June and this year’s exercise is expected to be completed by June 2023.
Estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE) and the distribution of households and persons over different MPCE classes, based on the Survey, may only become available about a year after the field work is completed. The results will include separate data sets for rural and urban parts, and also splice spending patterns for each State and Union Territory, as well as different socio–economic groups.
Starting mid–May, field enumerators have been asked to attend training programmes to ensure that interviews with households across urban and rural India are conducted sensitively and the intended data sought is gleaned effectively. The schedule lists out the items on which information is sought.
In November 2019, the Statistics and Programme Implementation Ministry had dismissed reports that the 2017–18 Survey findings were being withheld due to adverse outcomes reflecting a decline in consumer spending.
The Ministry had also said it was examining the feasibility of conducting the next Survey in 2020–2021 and 2021–22 after ”incorporating all data quality refinements in the survey process” recommended by an expert panel that vetted the ‘discrepancies’ in the 2017–18 results.
The Survey could not be launched in the last two years due to the pandemic, the official said.
“…There was a significant increase in the divergence in not only the levels in the consumption pattern but also the direction of the change when compared to the other administrative data sources like the actual production of goods and services,” the Ministry had noted about the previous Survey.
There were also concerns about the “ability/sensitivity of the survey instrument to capture consumption of social services by households especially on health and education,” it had said.
Fresh one-off surveys on consumer expenditure and employment and unemployment were commissioned over 2011–12 after the usually scheduled Surveys conducted in 2009–10 had coincided with a worldwide slowdown following the 2008 global financial crisis and a drought year in India.
Though the fresh Surveys at the time were necessitated due to the unusual circumstances, the data from the 2009–10 Survey was released in the public domain, unlike the 2017–18 findings.