This is the first living standards measurement survey conducted in Bhutan. A similar survey was conducted in 2007. And a household income and expenditure survey was conducted in 2000 (which does not provide data comparable to the BLSS).
The Bhutan Living Standards Survey (BLSS) 2003 is a nation-wide survey of households undertaken by the National Statistical Bureau. BLSS 2003 is an improved version of the Pilot Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2000. The BLSS followed the LSMS methodology developed by researchers at the World Bank. However, based on the unsatisfactory income data as evidence from the HIES 2000 the survey was designed to collect only consumption expenditure from the household to assess people's well-being and to construct comprehensive poverty profile for the country. Apart from collecting basic information about each household, the BLSS collected information on housing, employment, health status, fertility, education, access to public facilities, assets ownership, accompanied by a community questionnaire aimed at collecting information on service provision and prices of commodities. The information collected in the survey will enable the government to assess the effectiveness of the present policies and programmes on the living conditions of different sections of population and identify households that need assistance to formulate specific policies and programmes.
Objectives of the BLSS:
The broad objective of the survey was to collect detailed information about the economic and social conditions of households. Besides, the survey also addressed the following specific objectives:
- To provide useful inputs for the compilation of national accounts of the household sector as well as statistics of household expenditure and consumption pattern.
- To provide benchmark information on household consumption expenditure to update weights required in the rebasing of consumer price indices.
- To provide inputs in the estimation of the poverty profile for the country and various poverty indicators.
Kind of Data
Sample survey data [ssd]
Unit of Analysis
Final. edited dataset (as used for the poverty assessment and calculation of the national poverty line).
The scope of the Bhutan Living Standard Survey included:
- Demographic characteristics of the household members
- Household assets, housing, consumption expenditure and access to utilities
- Health, education and employment status of all household members
- Remittances sent by the household
- Prices of different commodities paid in the local market
The geographical coverage extended over the entire area of Bhutan excepting a few satellite towns, which are neither identified as urban areas nor under the administrative control of gups and chupen in the rural areas. Also due to security reasons the rural area in Sarpang and Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhags were not covered in the survey. Therefore, the BLSS covered 86 gewogs from eighteen Dzongkhags and 27 urban settlements including the towns of Sarpang, Gelephug and Samdrup Jongkhar.
The population coverage included all households in the country except the following:
- Diplomatic and expatriates households
- Residents of hotels, boarding and lodging houses, monasteries, nunneries, school hostels, orphanages, rescue homes, and under trails in jails and indoor patients of hospitals, nursing homes and
- Barracks of military and Para-military forces including the police
Producers and sponsors
National Statistics Bureau
Asian Development Bank
The Bhutan Living Standard Survey followed the Living Standard Measurement Survey (LSMS) methodology developed by researchers at the World Bank. The methodology has been customized for Bhutanese population and collected information through an integrated household questionnaire covering consumption, assets, housing, education, health, fertility, accompanied by a community questionnaire aimed at collecting information on services and prices of the common commodities.
The Survey and Data Processing Division of the National Statistical Bureau maintains an updated list of households by gewog for the entire country. Mapping of the urban centers was conducted and a sketch map was drawn for all the urban centers included in the survey prior to the block selection.
The sample size for the BLSS was determined using the information relating to the co-efficient of variation (CV) of some key expenditure variables as recommended by the United Nations Statistical Office based on the log-normal distribution of key expenditure variables. Keeping in view the uses of the survey results, it was felt that sampling precision of 5 percent at the national level would serve the purpose of the survey. Taking the assumption, it was derived that n, the sample size required for estimating the population mean y with 95 percent confidence.
n = 1600square(CV)
Taking into account of the CV of 1.0492 for the log-normal distribution and design effect of 2 for a stratified multi-stage sampling design, sample size of 4200 distributed to urban and rural with provisions for some non-response households was determined.
In order to get a representative sample of the households the entire country was divided into three regions based on the number of households and their geographic location; namely Western, Central and Eastern.
Western Region: Thimphu, Paro, Ha, Samtse, Chhukha, Punakha and Gasa
Central Region: Wangduephodrang, Daga, Tsirang, Sarpang, Zhemgang, Trongsa and Bumthang
East Region: Lhuntse, Mongar, Pemagatsel, Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang and Trashi Yangtse
The different areas were divided into seven strata. Each stratum composed of four urban strata (Thimphu city, rest of Western, Central and Eastern) and three rural strata (Western, Central and Eastern) has been designed to yield 600 households. Two rural areas of Sarpang and Samdrup Jongkhar were dropped out in the sample due to security reasons. The final sample size for the survey was 4120 households.
Note: Distribution of the sample household is given in table 1.1 of Bhutan Living Standard Survey 2003 report.
The overall response rate was 97.3 percent with 96.6 percent for urban and 98.1 percent for rural areas.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Data Collection Notes
Training of Supervisory staff and Enumerators:
The NSB then the Central Statistical Office recruited a group of 66 enumerators for conducting the fieldwork of the survey. A majority of the enumerators selected were under graduate who had written the final year examination from Sherubtse college and a few 12th grade students waiting for their scholarship.
The training sessions was divided into two groups. A weeklong training was conducted specifically for the staffs of the NSB who supervised the field operation of the BLSS. The training imparted instructions and skills to carry out the sampling procedures and mapping of the urban centers. It also discussed the questionnaire in detail. The supervisors were also familiarized on the use ISIC and ISOC codes for the industries and occupation respectively.
The enumerators training was conducted from March 26th to 5th April 2003, for two weeks. All the fourteen supervisors were the basic trainers at the program. The survey coordinator ensured that every enumerator and supervisor was provided with the instruction manual and the important documents. The general pattern of the first week training was that after a section of the questionnaire had been presented, using visual aids by the main trainer, the interviewers broke up into pre-assigned groups, under the direction of a supervisor to discuss the section in more detail. The composition of the groups changed from day to day, so that enumerators were forced to interact with as many different interviewers and supervisors as possible. Interviewers took turns in interviewing each other to become familiar with the questionnaire. The problems encountered were discussed in plenary session and resolved before moving on to the next section.
At the end of each day's training every enumerator was asked to collect data for their own household for the completed sections of the questionnaire. The questionnaires filled-in by the enumerators were thoroughly scrutinized by the group supervisors and the problems noted were pointed out to the concerned enumerators and discussed in plenary sessions. A particular day was assigned to conduct a field practice of the household interview. Filled-in questionnaires were collected from the enumerators and checked by the group supervisor to ensure that enumerator completely understood the concepts and data to be collected. The problems were discussed in the question answer sessions.
Prior to the field operation the NSB ensured that the public was informed about the BLSS. Public awareness were created through a series of announcement through Bhutan Broadcasting Service radio broadcast and the Kuensel (weekly newspaper), Besides, all the Dzongkhag (district) officers were informed about the time schedule of the BLSS field operation. The NSB also requested the Dzongkhag administration to issue instructions to all Gewog (block) officers to extend full cooperation to the survey team. Each enumerator was given a letter signed by Secretary, Planning Commission introducing him/her and ensuring confidentiality of the information to be provided by the household.
A total of 90 field operators (24 NSB Officials and 66 enumerators) were divided into fourteen teams, each headed by a supervisor and an assistant supervisor. The officials of the NSB were the main supervisors during the filed operation. Each team was provided with a vehicle to facilitate smooth field operation. The field operation started on 5th April and was completed on 30th June 2003. The supervisor accompanied the enumerators throughout the survey and conducted field edits. The survey coordinator visited the teams and verified the problems encountered by the enumerators during the field operation.
National Statistics Bureau
The 2003 Bhutan Living Standard Survey questionnaire is organized in the following sections:
Household roster: This part of the questionnaire used to list all household members their relationship to the head, sex and age.
Block 1 - Housing: The purpose of this section of the questionnaire is to collect information about the living conditions of the households.
Block 2.1 - Demographics: This section collects information about household members' demographic characteristics
Block 2.2 - Education: This section collects educational information for household members age 3 and above.
Block 2.3 - Health: This section collects information about current health status of all household members and use of health facilities, as well as some information on the use of family planning.
Block 2.4 - Employment: This block deals with employment, which is clearly a critical issue in ensuring a household has adequate resources for its livelihood.
Block 2.5 - Information on parents: This small block collects information on parents who are not current members of the household (because they live somewhere else or have died).
Block 3 - Assets ownership: This section of the questionnaire collects information about household assets ownership including livestock, poultry and ownership of land.
Block 4 - Access and distance to services: This section collects information about various services and how close they are to the household.
Block 5 - Remittances sent: This section records all money or payment in kind sent in the last 12 months to persons who are not members of the household.
Block 6 - Priorities and opinions: This section of questionnaire seeks to get some ideas from households about their living conditions.
Block 7 - Main sources of income: This section collects information about sources of household income.
Block 8 - Food consumption: This section collects detailed information on food expenditure and consumption. The person asked these questions should be the person who has primary responsibility for managing the household budget and who knows best about the household's expenditure and consumption.
Block 9 - Non-food expenditure: This section covers expenditure on non-food items, as well as any items received as gifts or payments-in-kind.
Block 10 - Home produced non-food items: This block of questions is concerned with finding out about non-food items that are produced by the household and consumed (used) by them.
Data Processing and Analysis:
After the completion of the field operation the filled-in questionnaires were reviewed by a group of trained manual editors under each supervisor. A manual scrutiny manual was prepared and distributed to the group of manual editors and the supervisors.
The data entry application was designed using CSpro software under the guidance of a technical assistance and the programmers of NSB. The office recruited 15 temporary staffs to carry out the manual scrutiny and data entry. Manual scrutiny and data entry of the BLSS was completed at the end of September 2003. Computer editing, validation of the data and analysis began at the beginning of October 2003.
Use of the dataset must be acknowledged using a citation which would include:
- the Identification of the Primary Investigator
- the title of the survey (including acronym and year of implementation)
- the survey reference number
- the source and date of download
Bhutan National Statistics Bureau. Bhutan Living Standards Survey (BLSS) 2003. Ref. BTN_2003_BLSS_v01_M. Dataset downloaded from [website/source] on [date].
National Statistics Bureau
Disclaimer and copyrights
The user of the data acknowledges that the original collector of the data, the authorized distributor of the data, and the relevant funding agency bear no responsibility for use of the data or for interpretations or inferences based upon such uses.