Do GDP Statistics Have a Future?

Author: Tsutomu Miyagawa, Faculty Fellow, RIETI

In early 2019 problems with Japan’s Monthly Labor Survey were revealed, drawing attention to the trustworthiness and role of statistical data. Serving on the Statistics Commission, the author of this article not only finds these events impossible to forget, but also personally regrets what happened, as someone who shares the responsibility for providing better governmental statistics.

However, this article will not explain in detail the uncovered problems with the labor statistics. Instead, its purpose is to use these problems as an opportunity to rethink the importance and role of statistics, as well as the issues currently impacting Japanese governmental statistics.

The volume of Japanese governmental statistics is immense, with 53 different fundamental statistics alone. These statistics are managed by different ministries and their characteristics cannot be easily summarized. This article will therefore focus on GDP statistics, which receive the highest attention among government data and are used to formulate various policies.

GDP, a nation’s gross domestic product, is one index within an accounting system used for measuring the entirety of a country’s economic activity, called the System of National Accounts, and this System of National Accounts itself consists of processed data compiled using primary statistics and the like created from administrative record information and questionnaires submitted directly to statistical agencies. This means that the accuracy of the individual primary statistics used for estimates of national accounts also impacts the accuracy of the national accounts. Considering the accuracy, role, and issues of GDP values in this light leads to a broader discussion of issues with many governmental statistics.

Read the entire article on the RIETI website or in Japanese.

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