Census in "crisis of survival"!


October 6, 18:39

"Is the census okay?"

Now, a sense of crisis is spreading among the people concerned.

A census conducted once every five years for all people living in Japan.

Positioned as "the most important statistical survey in Japan", it has reached its 100th anniversary.

However, the response rate has continued to be sluggish beyond expectations.

As I proceeded with the interview, I could see the actual situation of the census at the crossroads.

(Political Department, Shingo Yagyu / Election Project, Masataka Uzawa)

The response rate has not reached 30%!

The second government building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in Wakamatsucho, Shinjuku, about 5 km away from Kasumigaseki.

The "Reiwa 2nd Year Census Implementation Headquarters" was established there.

The response status of the census is displayed in real time on the computer screen in the room.

The census began accepting responses on the Internet from September 14th.

The deadline for reply is October 7, including the reply by mail starting from October 1.

As of September 29, 16 days after the 24-day survey period, the response rate was only 23.9%.

Compared to the Internet response rate of the same period in the previous survey, it is 12.3 points lower.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has set a goal of achieving 50% of the response rate on the Internet in this survey, but the person in charge has a heavy voice.

"The response rate is not growing as expected. At least I want to exceed the previous online response rate of 36.9% ..."

"Most important statistical survey"

The census, which is conducted once every five years, is Japan's only "100% survey" targeting all people living in Japan, including foreigners, and is positioned as the "most important statistical survey."

Survey documents will be distributed to all households, and responses will be sent via the Internet using a personal computer or smartphone, or by filling out a survey form and mailing it.

I (Yagyu) also received a blue envelope at home and immediately answered on the Internet.

In addition to the name, gender, and date of birth of each household member, 16 questions were answered according to the screen display, such as the type of residence, educational background during the period of residence, and employment status including the place of employment.

It took about 10 minutes.

When I heard that, I was wondering what to do, but the answer was not so troublesome.

The results of the survey are used in various situations related to our lives.

It is a basic material for formulating many policies such as measures for declining birthrate and aging population, disaster prevention measures, and city planning.

Based on the results of this survey, the single-seat constituencies for the lower house elections and the population of 50,000 or more, which is one of the requirements for the town to move to the city.

It is also widely used by private companies for forecasting demand for products and services, as well as for location planning of stores and factories.

It is an indispensable and valuable research material that is not different from the position of "most important".

Why is there information on the resident's card?

However, one question arises here.

"We have reported basic matters such as name and address in the resident's card, and the government has grasped the information of the place of employment by collecting taxes etc. It may not be necessary to investigate again."

Japan When I asked this question to Professor Masahiro Sato of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, who is studying the history of statistics, I got an unexpected answer.

"The information on the resident's card cannot tell the exact population of each municipality."

What do you mean.

It is said that there are many cases where the resident's card is not transferred to students who live alone away from their parents or office workers who are regularly transferred, and the resident's card does not accurately reflect the actual living conditions. ..

Taking Hachioji City, Tokyo, where there are many universities in the city, as an example, the population of the city ascertained by the previous census was 578,000, which is higher than the population of 563,000 based on the latest resident card. The result was 15,000 more people.

Professor Sato points out as follows.

"This difference is by no means small. Although the resident's card has not been transferred, it also produces garbage and uses water and sewage. Since it puts a load on various social infrastructures, the administration takes that into account in the medium to long term. You have to make a specific plan. In addition, it will affect the store opening plan of convenience stores. ”

What kind of attributes do people live where and for how long?

The only way to accurately grasp this situation is to conduct a "100% survey" of all people living in Japan.

100 years ago, a feast

The first census was conducted 100 years ago in 1918.

Since the beginning of the Meiji era, ancestors have appealed for the necessity of introducing statistical surveys to Japan, which were previously conducted by Western countries, and it was realized after decades of continuous efforts.

According to the first survey, the whole country was in a festive mood, saying, "This is one of the first-class countries."

The government created posters such as "The census is a mirror of a civilized country" and "It is a shame for the people to miss this census" to spread the word to the people and called for cooperation.

Traditional "face-to-face"

In the 100-year history of the census, the "face-to-face" survey method has played a major role in maintaining the accuracy of the "100% survey."

To make this possible, last time, 700,000 investigators were selected through open recruitment through each municipality and conducted the investigation as part-time national civil servants.

Toshiko Moriya (71 years old) from Hadano City, Kanagawa Prefecture, has been a census researcher for the ninth time since 40 years ago.

He was also involved in other statistical surveys and was awarded the first spring medal of Reiwa last year in recognition of his achievements.

After visiting each household, meeting the survey partner, and informing them of the significance of the survey, they handed over the survey form directly and requested a response.

From the previous survey, the answers by mail were fully incorporated, and from the previous survey, the answers on the Internet were also introduced in earnest, but in the past, when the surveyor collected the questionnaire, whether there were any omissions in the answers. Was also checking on the spot.

"I loved meeting and talking with people, and it's a land I've been married to, so I'm glad I was able to walk around and become familiar with the area. When I handed the collected questionnaires to the city officials, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of relief. "

However, at the same time as being rewarding, he also learned the difficulty.

"Of course, there is a duty of confidentiality, so I can't tell anyone what I'm answering. I think the investigator couldn't do it unless he was always trying to be trusted by the local people. There was also an item related to income in the questionnaire, and it was hard to say, "Why do I have to answer that?"

Rapidly increasing "answer refusal"

Despite the efforts of these investigators, the number of cases where no answer is obtained is increasing rapidly.

That percentage, which was 1.7% in the 2000 survey, increased to 13.1% in the previous survey, 2015, three times later.

It is a calculation that more than 1 in 8 people did not answer.

By prefecture, Tokyo, which had the highest rate, reached 30.7%.

As long as it is a "100% survey," we cannot help but survey households that did not respond.

If the response deadline has passed and the investigator does not get an answer even if the reminder is given, as an alternative measure, the investigator will ask the landlord of the condominium or the neighboring residents for the minimum items such as name and gender and the number of household members. After hearing, the local government is supposed to supplement the part that can be understood from the information on the resident's card.

Of course, it is not possible to check all the survey items that were originally planned, and since it is not a direct response from the person himself, the accuracy of the survey is greatly reduced.

In other words, as the number of "reply refusals" increases, the reliability of the data expected as a "100% survey" has to be reduced.

Limitations of "face-to-face"

The limit of "face-to-face" has been pointed out as one of the major factors behind the rapid increase in "reply refusal".

Due to the increase in auto-lock condominiums and the diversification of lifestyles, there are increasing cases where investigators cannot meet with household members no matter how many times they visit.

It is expected that more and more people are consciously refusing to answer due to heightened privacy awareness.

Mr. Misao Umeda (69 years old), who is the fourth researcher in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

I realize that the “face-to-face” survey becomes more difficult with each round.

"The number of people I can meet is decreasing. Even if I am at home, the number of single male households is increasing because they are working at night or they are not even coming out using their absence. Foreigners Households are rarely met and heard. "

Shinjuku Ward faced these problems ahead of the rest of the country, and in 2006, the ward council said, "The census is harsh on both the citizens to be investigated and the investigators and other investigators, and the burden on the local government is too great. It is also big, "and has submitted a written opinion to the government requesting a drastic review, including the survey method.

Policy change at Corona

This time, the new coronavirus has spurred this situation.

In order to prevent infection, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has adopted a basic policy of putting documents in the mailbox after explaining the survey through the intercom instead of the conventional "face-to-face" principle. It was shown to.

In the first place, the investigator who was aiming to secure 700,000 people as in the previous time, but due to the spread of infection, the number of people who declined one after another, only about 600,000 gathered, and it was impossible to conduct a "face-to-face" investigation. there were.

In any case, the 100th anniversary of the survey unexpectedly changed the policy from the first "meet" survey to the "not meet" survey.

The actual survey method is to be decided by each municipality, and in Shinjuku Ward, the explanation over the intercom is omitted and the documents are simply put in the mailbox.

Is it really accurate?

Mr. Umeda, a researcher in Shinjuku Ward, said about this policy change.

"I used to visit the same place at least three times, so to be honest, this method is easy. I hope that the answers on the net will take root. It will be difficult for the elderly, and I can't read what the result will be. ”

Mr. Moriya, a researcher in Hadano City, said he was worried.

"I'm grateful that the survey has become easier because I'm old, but I also know old surveys, so I'm wondering if this is really enough. The answer is really accurate. I wonder if we can get together enough. "

Survival crisis!


The low response rate of this survey and so far seems to be right for the two people's anxieties.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is aiming to take advantage of the corona sickness, achieve a track record of popularizing Internet responses, and pave the way for a review of the "face-to-face" in future surveys, but the realization is becoming uncertain.

On the contrary, if the response by mail in the future does not work, the reminder of the investigator after the response deadline does not work, and the "reply refusal" greatly exceeds the previous survey, the census The significance of the matter itself may be questioned.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has decided to strengthen the call for cooperation in responding by increasing the frequency of TV commercials and online advertisements, but it is uncertain whether it will be effective enough to supplement the "face-to-face".

For the next 100 years

Professor Sato, who is familiar with overseas statistical systems, predicts that it is not realistic for the Japanese census to continue in its current form, and that it will soon be necessary to make a drastic review. There is.

According to Professor Sato, the number of countries that are canceling the "100% survey" itself, let alone the "face-to-face", is increasing due to the growing awareness of privacy, especially in Europe.

As an alternative, it is said that it is shifting to a survey called the "register method" that creates statistics by linking various information held by the government.

Professor Sato said, "It will not be long before Japan, after amending the law, for example, it will be a" register "based survey using My Number, and the survey itself will move to a place invisible to people. I think. "

However, it should be pointed out that the "register method" does not supplement the significance of the "100% survey" of "accurately grasping the actual housing conditions" that we have seen so far.

And for the time being, government statistics are indispensable whether to continue the "100% survey" by spreading Internet responses or to shift to a new survey method that utilizes the My Number system in the future. Residents' understanding and trust in the survey.

Professor Sato emphasizes the need to make the census more accessible to citizens.

"The census is the ultimate big data and should be used as data for citizens to know what they need, but I think Japan is too weak in that direction compared to overseas. , Many people are aware that "only data can be taken and nothing is returned to me", but if the recognition that "we can do something with ourselves" spreads, we will investigate. I think more people will try to cooperate

. ”What is the appropriate state of the census for the next 100 years?

This is an issue that is being asked by each person living in Japan.