The Household Budgetary Survey is a survey conducted among the private households in Malta and Gozo to gauge changing expenditure patterns by residential households. The main aim of the survey is to illustrate patterns in household expenditure and how these are distributed among different goods and services. The HBS reveals changes in consumption trends among Maltese households over a number of years. Detailed information is also collected on various sources of household income, possession of durable goods, cars, basic information on housing and on various other demographic and socio-economic characteristics.
A primary objective of the Survey is the utilisation of data as an updated basis for the Retail Price Index (RPI) which measures changes in prices, and which is an important indicator of the impact of inflation on family budgets. The survey also provides indications on different standards of living in terms of income and expenditure. The survey findings are of interest to a diverse community of users, and results are used for planning, policy, and monitoring purposes.
Methodological description of survey
Data collection is approximately every 5 years and the last one was carried out in 2015. Fieldwork is undertaken by a team of interviewers and supervisors, the majority of whom are specially recruited for the survey. All data is captured through face-to-face interviews.
Data collection is carried out over a whole calendar year and the target population consists of all private households in Malta and Gozo. Households are chosen in a systematic random way according to the characteristics of the households and the persons within each household, mainly the address details, number of males and females, age groups, and employment status. A gross sample size of around 7,000 households is chosen.
Participating families are asked to report their day-to-day expenditure, as well as other occasional expenditure, over a period of two weeks. To this end, the year in which the survey is held is segmented into periods of two weeks. Every two-week period will see families from all over Malta and Gozo taking part in the project. Consequently, every week, one group of families will be starting their assignment while another group will be concluding it. In the course of the two-week period, the participating families are visited by an interviewer.
The main questionnaire is filled by the interviewers and it includes a wide range of socio-economic questions including a complete demographic profile of each household member; basic information on the dwelling and income information at individual level and irregular outlays (normally occurring on a quarterly or annual basis).
On the other hand, the primary scope of the diaries is to collect regular expenditures and main product information such as physical quantities and places of purchase. Participating households have to list all their daily purchases in the diaries during the two-week period starting on the first Monday of the reference period. Diaries are expected to be filled by household members, although interviewers assist the households in case of difficulty. A total of 2 diaries are distributed to each participating household for each of the two reference weeks.
Accuracy and reliability of data
Information on the accuracy and reliability of data can be viewed in a dedicated metadata report available on the NSO’s metadata website.
Timeliness and punctuality of data
Scheduled news releases related to HBS are published on the NSO’s website. These are published on the pre-established date as scheduled in the Advance Release Calendar which can also be viewed on the NSO’s website.
For the past Household Budgetary Surveys, two publications were published. The first one was published in May 2003 and covered reference period March 2000 to March 2001. A second one was published in August 2010, covering reference period February 2008 to February 2009.
HBS data is submitted to Eurostat within the date stipulated and is normally sent between one to three years after end of reference period.
Accessibility and clarity of data
HBS publications are made available to external users on the NSO’s website. Additionally, a national metadata report is available on the NSO’s metadata website.
Coherence and comparability/consistency of data
The HBS has no legal basis; hence each country has its own targets, methodology and survey programming. Data supplied by each country are not perfectly harmonised. The lack of comparability is particularly true for income and expenditure components and ways how certain expenditure items are classified.
Results are comparable at EU level in terms of common concepts, definitions, and classifications.
The general methodology (target population, sampling strategy, coverage, definitions, etc.) of various rounds of HBS data collection, is practically the same. However some changes in the definitions and collection modes were made in the last HBS, particularly in consumption expenditure classifications and income. A direct comparison between different waves is thus not possible.
In the case of HBS, the most relevant sources for cross-comparison include the weights used in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), the Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), Labour Force Survey (LFS), National Accounts (NA), and various administrative and other sources. Considering that these are totally different instruments, with different methodologies, sources and even sometimes definitions, overall coherence is quite acceptable