Own use production work

Own-use production work refers to activities performed to produce goods or provide services intended for final use by the producer, their household and/or family. This form of work is one of the oldest forms of organization of labour, whereby households produce mainly their own food, shelter and other necessities, and provide care and other services for household members, their premises and durables. Nowadays, the spread of markets for goods and services has resulted in dramatic changes in the way labour is organized. Participation in this form of work nonetheless remains widespread in countries at all levels of development and continues to be central to survival in impoverished and remote areas, particularly through subsistence agriculture and fishing, and through self-provisioning of water, firewood and other fuels in areas with limited infrastructure. It is also central to the wellbeing of households and families through the unpaid provision of services such as cooking, cleaning, care and instruction of family members, and maintenance and repair of their dwelling and other premises. Likewise, it is a common strategy for supplementing household income, through subsidiary plots and kitchen gardens in many urban and rural areas. Following concerns for more sustainable models of development, greater reliance on own-use production work to meet a variety of household needs is also becoming a lifestyle choice for parts of the population across countries around the world.

Information about participation and time-spent in own-use production work is essential to inform a wide range of policies including those targeting employment creation in rural areas, poverty reduction, food security, and provision of a wide range of services, including water supply, child and elderly care, domestic services, etcetera. It is also essential for addressing gender issues in the world of work and for better understanding participation and access to labour markets, and related issues such as work-life balance.

To adequately monitor trends and inform a wide variety of social and economic policies, the international statistical standards recommend producing separate statistics on:
  • Persons in own-use production of goods
  • Persons in own-use provision of services

Persons in own-use production of goods are defined as all those of working age who, during a specified reference period, performed any activity to produce goods for own final use. The notion “for own final use” refers to production where the intended destination of the output is mainly for final use by the producer in the form of capital formation, or for final consumption by household members, or by family members living in other households.

According to the international standards, own-use production of goods includes the following activities (within 2008 SNA production boundary) when intended mainly for own final use:
  • Producing and/or processing for storage agricultural, fishing, hunting and gathering products;
  • Collecting and/or processing for storage mining and forestry products, including firewood and other fuels;
  • Fetching water from natural and other sources;
  • Manufacturing household goods (such as furniture, textiles, clothing, footwear, pottery or other durables, including boats and canoes);
  • Building, or effecting major repairs to, one’s own dwelling, farm buildings, etc.;

For policy purposes, an important sub-group of persons in own-use production of goods are subsistence foodstuff producers; that is, persons who performed any of the above activities to produce foodstuff from agriculture, fishing, hunting or gathering that contribute to the livelihood of the household or family.

Persons in own-use provision of services are defined as all those of working age who, during a specified reference period, performed any activity to provide services for own final use by household members, or by family members living in other households.

According to the international standards, own-use provision of services includes the following activities (inside the General production boundary but beyond the 2008 SNA production boundary) when performed unpaid for the household or family member:
  • household accounting and management, purchasing and/or transporting goods;
  • preparing and/or serving meals, household waste disposal and recycling;
  • cleaning, decorating and maintaining one’s own dwelling or premises, durables and other goods, and gardening;
  • childcare and instruction, transporting and caring for elderly, dependent or other household members and domestic animals or pets, etc.;

Current international guidelines

The latest international recommendations on the measurement of own-use production work are contained in the Resolution concerning statistics of work, employment and labour underutilization adopted by the 19th ICLS in 2013. This resolution provides reference concepts, operational definitions and guidelines to support countries in establishing a comprehensive system of on work and labour market statistics that includes, as an integral part, statistics on own-use production work. More so, in countries where subsistence agriculture and/or fishing is a common activity in particular regions or among certain groups of the population, the international guidelines recommend that statistics on persons in own-use production of goods be produced with the same frequency as statistics on employment and labour underutilization.

Time use surveys are a key source of detailed statistics on persons’ use of time in different activities, including in own-use production work, and especially, in own-use provision or services. For monitoring trends and to enable analysis of dynamics between participation in the labour market and in own-use production work, inclusion of short modules on participation in own use production of goods and in own-use provision of services in national labour force surveys are also recommended.