Statistical surveys undertaken by the Japanese government should be guided by the following three basic concepts. First, the content of surveys should be essential and appropriate in terms of ascertaining actual socio-economic conditions, and all government statistics should be reviewed continually on this basis. Second, the burden on respondents in terms of time and physical resources and the cost to those implementing surveys (central and local governments) must be kept to a minimum. Third, the content of surveys must be treated as public goods and made available to the public within a reasonable time and in a form that is easy to use.
The most effective way to reduce the burden on those completing survey forms (respondents) is to eliminate unnecessary statistics. Existing statistics should be constantly reviewed under a radical "scrap-and-build" policy. All surveys should be registered in a data base according to the items covered. This information should be studied with a view to making necessary changes, such as the elimination of duplicated items. In addition, systems should be introduced to allow data sharing among government departments and the utilization of administrative records. A system to minimize response burden should also be introduced, together with methods to reduce paperwork.
Dramatic advances in information and communications technology have made the improvement of user access to government statistics a major priority. Data should be made available through the Internet and other media in greater quantities and depth and in formats that can be processed on personal computers. The government should also endeavor to reduce the lead time to publication, and to publish release schedules in advance.
Legal and institutional frameworks should be created to provide greater scope for government agencies to make improvements through their own efforts. Statistics-related laws and regulations should be reviewed, and overall coordination functions should be strengthened. Another area in which changes are needed is the makeup of the Statistical Council, which currently includes only one representative of the private business sector. A more balanced basis for debate is needed.