Challenges and solutions for measuring agricultural work in household surveys

Men threshing grain; women creating a terrace Photo: A’Melody Lee / World Bank

Today, agriculture remains the backbone of the economies of low-income countries around the world where most people live below the international poverty line. The agricultural workforce is therefore a key asset, making knowledge of labor productivity an essential element of any poverty reduction strategy.

Accurately measuring work on family farms is essential for the development of effective agricultural policies.However, experts often disagree on best practices for capturing data on farm household labor in household and farm surveys. The menu of available methods is varied, varying in the length of the reference period, the selection of respondents, the order of the questions, the seasonal schedule of interviews and even the appropriate granularity of the units in which the work is reported. The choice of the appropriate method depends on several factors and should be tailored to the objectives of the survey and the data needs of the country’s agricultural labor force, while taking into account other potential users of the data.

The World Bank Living Standards Measurement Team (LSMS) has developed a Guide to Measuring Agricultural Work, a reference guide for survey practitioners on measuring farm household labor in surveys of agricultural labor. households and agriculture. The methods and recommendations presented in this guide are relevant for integrated and multi-subject household surveys, other smaller-scale household surveys, agricultural sample surveys and agricultural censuses. It builds on an established set of activities carried out by the LSMS team, including previously published guidelines and methodological work carried out in Tanzania, Ghana and Malawi from 2014.

The best practice survey design choices for farm work modules to measure work on family farms are summarized below.

  • The reference period. The reference period for the collection of agricultural labor force data should be aligned with the reference period for which information on agricultural products and non-labor related inputs is collected. The reference period must cover at least one entire agricultural season. When countries and regions have more than one agricultural season per year, data should ideally be collected separately for each agricultural season, in accordance with the objectives of the survey.
  • The timing and frequency of visits. When possible, households should be visited twice at different times during a growing season, once after planting and once after harvest. If households can only be visited once, they should be visited after harvest.
  • Household work on crop production activities. It is recommended that agricultural labor information be collected at the plot level for each household member who worked on a plot listed by the household. Any detailed analysis related to agricultural productivity will require that labor force information is collected separately for each plot. The total number of days worked on the plot and the typical or average number of hours worked per day by each member during the reference period should be gathered without reference to a specific activity. For a given parcel, the respondent must be the manager of the parcel.
  • Domestic work on post-harvest activities. Information on household work performing postharvest activities should be collected at the crop level for each household member who worked on postharvest operations for any crop harvested by the household. The respondent to these questions should be the person best informed about the disposition of crops by the household or the agricultural activities of the household. The total number of days worked on the crop by each member during the reference period should be collected, followed by a question on the typical or average number of hours worked per day for all activities, without reference to a specific activity.
  • Salaried, free or exchange work. Information on paid, free or exchange work should be collected at the level of the type of person, disaggregated by men, women and children. For a given parcel, the respondent must be the manager of the parcel. Data should be collected on the total number of people per person type per plot, the average number of days that a typical person type worked on each plot during the reference period and the typical or average number of hours worked per day. While wages are not collected for domestic work and free or exchange work, they should be collected for paid work.


  • Read the full guide here.


World Bank Group published this content on 05 October 2021 and is solely responsible for the information it contains. Distributed by Public, unedited and unmodified, on 05 October 2021 17:58:02 UTC.

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Sandra J. Lacey

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