The Nepal Labor Force Survey 1998/99 was carried out as a multitopic household survey on labour force situation in Nepal. Several recent studies have highlighted the fact that Nepal lacks the basic data needed for monitoring employment and labour market conditions. In its Ninth Five Year Development Plan, covering the period 1997-2002, the Government of Nepal gave high priority to the alleviation of poverty through employment generation, skills enhancement and rural development. Some of the censuses and surveys carried out during the last few years have provided information on employment, but the data collected have often been of limited value. This was because insufficient questions were asked, or because the sample size was too small, or because the use of non-standard definitions of economic activity rendered international comparisons impossible.
In contrast, the 1998/99 Labour Force Survey asked detailed questions about economic activity, on both a current and a usual basis.
To guide the survey team in planning and conducting the survey, a high level Steering Committee was established, with representatives from several key interest groups. This Steering Committee provided valuable inputs to the design of the questionnaire and sampling scheme, and to the planned outputs from the survey.
The major aim of the 1998/99 Labour Force Survey in Nepal was to collect a set of comprehensive statistics on employment, unemployment and underemployment. The results from the survey provide information required for skill development and planning, for employment generation, for improving the status of women and children, for assessing the role and importance of the informal sector, and for identifying the number and characteristics of the unemployed and underemployed.
The survey asked detailed questions about economic activity, on both a current and a usual basis. It covered a large national representative sample of more than 14,000 households, with data collection spread over a complete 12-month period so as to reflect any seasonal variations in activity. Finally, and most importantly, the survey adopted the current international standards for measuring economic activity, as recommended by the ILO.
Kind of Data
Sample survey data [ssd]
Unit of Analysis
Version 2.1: Edited, anonymous dataset for public distribution (under certain legal conditions).
DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS: Household distribution, Household composition, Age and sex distribution.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Educational status, Literacy, Vocational training.
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY: Current activity status, Reasons for inactivity, Usual activity status.
EMPLOYMENT: Work activities, Occupation of main job, Industry, Education levels, Paid and self-employment, Institutional sector of employment, Hours of work, Earnings, Second job.
UNEMPLOYMENT: The unemployed, Looking for work, Duration of unemployment, Previous work experience of the unemployed.
UNDEREMPLOYMENT: Underemployment versus unemployment, Visible underemployment, Characteristics of the underemployed.
USUAL ACTIVITY: Comparison of current and usual activity status, Daily activity over the year, Characteristics of the usually active population.
INFORMAL SECTOR ACTIVITY: Characteristics of the informal sector.
ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES OF CHILDREN: Cconomic activity rates of children, Work done by children.
NON-ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES: Participation in non-economic activities, Time spent on these activities.
National coverage Urban/ rural areas Development regions Ecological belt
The survey covered the whole country, and no geographical areas were excluded. All permanent residents of Nepal (including foreign nationals) were considered eligible for inclusion in the survey, but households of diplomatic missions were excluded. As is normal in household surveys, the homeless and those people living for six months or more away from the household or in institutions such as school hostels, prisons, army camps and hospitals were also excluded.
Producers and sponsors
Central Bureau of Statistics
National Planning Commission, Nepal
His Majesty's Government
United Nations Development Programme
NLFS Core Team
Central Bureau of Statistics
International Labour Organization
Provided key technical inputs
Bob Pember, Senior Specialist in Labor Statistics
ILO/East Asia Multi-Disciplinary Advisory Team
Survey design and oversight through its implementation
Mr. Peter Wingfield Digby, Consultant
International Labour Orgranization
Assistance in survey design and implementation, and subsequent data analysis
Mr. Val Abuan, Consultant
International Labour Organization
Design of data process system
Mr. Gagan Rajbhandari, Programme Officer
International Labour Organization
General support and encouragement
A total sample of 14,400 households was selected for this survey, half of it in urban and half in rural areas. The sampling frame was based on the listing of enumeration areas from the 1991 census, but with certain modifications. In particular, the elements making up those new municipalities that had been created since the 1991 census were transferred from the rural frame to the urban frame. The sample design involved a two-stage probability proportional to size (PPS) selection process. First, wards were selected with PPS, where the number of households at the time of the census provided the measure of size. Then within the selected primary sampling unit (PSU), consisting of the ward or in some cases a sub-ward or an amalgamation of small wards, all households were to be listed in the field and 20 households selected by systematic sampling.
Annex B of the NLFS report provides a detailed description of the sample design and its implementation.
There was very little non-response on the survey, with only 45 households lost out of 14,400 yielding a response rate of 99.997 percent. Twenty of these households are accounted for by one PSU in the Far-western mountains. This PSU could not be covered in the third season because it could not be reached in the time available. The weights for the two other PSUs in the area were therefore increased at the analysis stage to try to compensate for the 20 missing households.
Although the sample is theoretically self-weighting (at least within the separate urban and rural samples), there are two reasons why we need to apply weights to the sample data. One is to allow for the fact that the sizes of the PSUs have changed between the 1991 population census and the time of the NLFS. The other is to make some allowance for non-response, since no substitute households were taken in the NLFS.
The overall raising factor for the survey is 267. This means that, on average, the NLFS conducted interviews with 1 in 267 of the population aged 5 and over. Because of the importance of the urban sector and its relatively small size and greater heterogeneity, an interviewing rate of 1 in 65 was used, compared with only 1 in 456 for the rural sector.
Annex B of the NLFS report provides detailed discussion of the sample weights of NLFS.
Dates of Data Collection
Season 1: Rainy
Season 2: Winter
Season 3: Dry
Data Collection Mode
The field staff were drawn from the district offices of CBS. They were mainly young men, but there were a few women. In many of the more rural areas, interviewing of young women by young men is culturally difficult, and in these situations the data often had to be collected through proxies, with possible consequent effects on data quality. There were 15 teams in all. Each team consisted of a supervisor and three interviewers. The Kathmandu team had four interviewers.
Day to day control of each team was in the hands of the supervisor who was a member of the team, but additional supervisory visits were made by staff from the headquarters of CBS. These visits were particularly important in the early stages of the field period, when interviewers were still not very familiar with the questionnaire. In two instances, it was found that interviewing teams had misunderstood key instructions, and as a result they were required to repeat their workloads.
Data Collection Notes
The survey was spread over a complete 12 months. On the advice of the NLFS steering committee, it was decided to split the annual sample into three sub-groups, each one representing four months in the Nepalese calendar.
Fieldwork continued throughout the first 11 months of the survey year, but then had to be curtailed in mid-April 1999 because of an impending national election. The few remaining PSUs were covered at the end of May, once election activities were completed.
Although extensive cartographic work had already been done in connection with the NLSS, the staff of NLFS carried out further cartographic work where it was considered necessary, so as to establish clear boundaries for the selected areas.
Some 18 supervisors underwent a week's training in Kathmandu, covering such issues as locating the sample area and identifying the boundaries, the listing operation, the selection of households, gaining the co-operation of respondents, quality control, supervising field operations and checking completed questionnaires, and liaising with headquarters. At the specific request of UNDP, ILO arranged for a consultant to give two sessions on gender issues relevant to the survey.
This supervisor training was then followed by a three-week training course for supervisors and enumerators together. Because of the large numbers involved (20 supervisors plus 55 enumerators, allowing for some reserves), three separate training classes were run simultaneously. Two days were spent in discussion of the interviewer's duties and general issues relating to the fieldwork, and a further three days in clarifying the key concepts used in labour force surveys. Only after that did the classes move into detailed discussion of the questionnaire. As with the supervisor training, two sessions were again devoted to discussing gender issues. Towards the end of the training class all field staff spent a day in the field, with each person being required to interview one urban and one rural household. The final day was spent on a debriefing of this fieldwork exercise.
A short questionnaire was administered towards the end of the training, to evaluate the quality of the training courses and find out which aspects were still unclear, and the results were used on the final day to re-emphasize certain points.
Carrying out a survey in Nepal is a major challenge because of the terrain. To give some idea of the nature of the difficulties involved, it is worth noting that as many as 15 of the 75 district capitals cannot be reached at all by road. Visitors are forced to walk there or fly in. Many areas in Nepal, particularly in the mountains, are extremely remote, and interviewers must often walk long distances. The interviewers were therefore provided with military style backpacks. However, because of their appearance, local authorities and householders sometimes mistook them for Maoist terrorists. Indeed, in one instance which reached the national press, one team was briefly imprisoned (despite showing their identification) and were only released after the Director-General of CBS had intervened personally. In some cases fears that the team might be Maoists led to refusals to give them accommodation in the survey area.
In designing the survey, there was a concern to keep interviews to a manageable length. There was an obvious desire not to impose unnecessarily on household members, who were giving freely of their time in responding to the questions asked. There was also the consideration that the interviews within each household should not take too long, so that interviewers could complete their work load of 20 households and move on to the next PSU. In practice, interviews with each selected person normally took about 20 minutes, with the result that interviews with the whole household were usually completed within two hours. Only in exceptional circumstances where a household was very large would it take longer than two hours to complete one household.
In collecting data on work activities, two reference periods (short and long) have been used. A week (i.e. the seven days leading up to the interview) has been used as the short reference period, and a year as the long reference period. The short reference period is used to measure current activity, while the long period is used to measure usual activity. For many people (for instance in the case of those in government service) the main economic activity of the short period will probably be the same as the usual activity of the longer period, unless they have recently changed their jobs. In other situations (as for instance with seasonal agricultural workers) this will not be the case.
Central Bureau of Statistics
National Planning Commission
An initial NLFS survey questionnaire was developed by the CBS on the basis of an ILO manual 3 and subsequently modified, taking account of the advice received from the Steering Committee and ILO technical advisers as well as of the experience gained in several small pre-tests.
Some particular aspects of the questionnaire are worth noting. Great care was taken to ensure that the terminology complied with international recommendations. The lower age cut-off point was set at 5 years, to enable the collection of data on the economic activities of children. In an attempt to make the questionnaire more gender sensitive, the section on current activities was expanded. Information was collected not just on those activities which count as 'work' under the international definitions but also on those activities (such as cooking, cleaning and child minding) which are performed without pay for the household, mainly by women.
The design of the part of the questionnaire dealing with usual activity proved particularly difficult. In an early pre-test, an attempt was made to collect details of the number of weeks in the past year that the person had spent in three different categories of economic activity (working, not working but available for work, and not working and not available). This did not work well. In Nepal the use of a 'week' in measuring economic activity is not easy to apply, since the public appears to have difficulty with this idea. Days and months are easier concepts to work with.
Consideration was therefore given to alternatives, based on the advice given in the ILO manual and the patterns used in various recent LFS questionnaires in other countries. One method (the Canadian method) involves obtaining broad estimates of the amount of work done each month, but this was considered too complicated for use in Nepal. Instead, a method based on days was used, where respondents were asked to state, for each of the last 12 months, the approximate number of days spent in each of the three economic activity categories. To simplify the recording of this information, it was assumed that each month consisted of 30 days, making a nominal year of 360 days.
At the final stage of questionnaire preparation, the English questionnaire was translated into Nepali, and then back-translated independently into English. Differences in the two English versions were noted, and attempts made to clarify the Nepali version of the questionnaire so that there would be less chance of misunderstandings about the intended meaning of each question.
A centralised processing system was used for this survey. The Integrated Microcomputer Processing System (IMPS) package was used for processing the NLFS. This package, developed by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, is widely used in national statistical offices around the world. It is easy to use, and contains programs covering all phases of data processing, from data entry through to tabulation and the calculation of sampling errors. Some of the NLFS staff had previous experience of using another package (STATA) for preparing output from the NLSS. Where IMPS did not provide a convenient method for producing output (as for instance in the case of calculating averages), the required tables were produced using STATA.
The NLFS report mentions some issues worth knowing about data entry and processing of the NLFS dataset.
Estimates of Sampling Error
In a survey of this size, the robustness of the sample design means that the sampling errors for statistics at the national level are likely to be fairly small. Non-sampling errors are likely to be the major source of concern, and every effort has been made at all stages of the survey to try to minimise these non-sampling errors.
Data are available giving an indication of the likely sampling errors for some of the key aggregates measured in this survey. These sampling errors have been calculated by means of the CENVAR module in the IMPS package that was used for processing this survey. In order to derive these estimates of sampling error, account was taken of the structural design of the survey, with PSUs being assigned to either the urban or the rural stratum, and with different sampling fractions being used in each stratum.
However the resulting sampling errors probably substantially overstate the width of the true confidence intervals, since they take no account of the very strong implicit stratification by region and ecological zone incorporated into the design. The true confidence intervals for sampling errors will therefore be much narrower.
All the estimates can be found in the appropriate section of the survey report. In the case of estimate for the total currently active population, the 95 percent lower and upper bounds for this estimate are 9.410 and 9.873 million respectively. This means that we can be 95 percent confident that the number of people currently economically active lies within this range. Put another way, we can say that we are 95 percent confident that the true value lies within the range 9.641 million plus or minus 231 thousand.
Confidentiality of the respondents is guaranteed by Article 8 of Statistics Act 1958.
Restriction on publication of information and details
Any information or details relating to any person, family, firm or company, which have been supplied, obtained or prepared pursuant to Section 3 or Section 4 or Section 5 or Section 6 or Section 7 or any part of such information or details, shall not be disclosed or published directly except to the Director General or to any other officer of the Bureau without the written permission of the person or of his or her authorized representative supplying such information or details.
For the purpose of institution of any suit under this Act, nothing mentioned in Sub-section (1) shall be deemed to bar the production of such information before any court.
All potential users of the NLFS data set will be required to adhere to the following conditions:
1. NLFS data is given to all users subject to the provision that (i) they duly acknowledge that the data used has been provided to them by CBS, and that (ii) CBS be provided with one copy of all publications in which NLFS data has been used.
2. They provide an undertaking that they will not pass copies of the data received to other individuals or organizations without first obtaining written permission from CBS allowing them to do so.
3. A fee will be levied on all users to cover the cost of preparation of the following materials. In the interests of encouraging as many users as possible to use the NLFS data, this fee will be levied at a different rate on users according a set of criteria.
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 country, acronym and year of implementation)
- the survey reference number
- the source and date of download
Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Nepal. Labor Force survey 1998/99. Ref. NPL_1998_LFS_v01_M. Dataset downloaded from http://cbs.gov.np/nada/index.php/catalog on [date].
The user of the data acknowledges that the Central Bureau of Stastistics, Nepal bears no responsibility for use of the data or for interpretations or inferences based upon such uses.
DDI Document ID
Yadu Nath Acharya
Central Bureau of Statistics
Documentor and Editor
Accelerated Data Program
International Household Survey Network
Editing for IHSN Survey Catalog
Date of Metadata Production
DDI Document version
Version 1.0 - Central Bureau of Statistics - Original documentation of the study.
Version 2.0 - Edited version by ADP based on Version 1.0 of CBS downloaded from http://cbs.gov.np/nada/index.php/catalog on 7 April 2013.