The Environment for Microdata Access in Japan: A Comparison with the United States and Britain and Future Issues

Akira Kawai
Shigeru Hirota
Tomohiko Inui

December 2009


For most of the post‐war period, Japan's administration of statistics was governed by the framework provided by the Statistics Act from 1947. However, because the Act remained largely unchanged since it was originally introduced, it increasingly failed to reflect important changes in economic and social circumstances over time, resulting in various problems, including with regard to the secondary use of various kinds of microdata. To help resolve these problems, the New Statistics Act was enacted in 2007 and came fully into force in April 2009. Among other things, the New Statistics Act provides for a substantial revision of the system of secondary data use. An important element of this is a change in the basic philosophy underlying the legal framework from "statistics for the purpose of administration" to "statistics as an information resource for society." A central aim is ensuring the “usefulness” of public statistics, and regulations concerning the use of statistics, such as provisions for secondary use, were incorporated in the Act. One important change is that the system of approval by the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications for secondary data use was abolished. Instead, secondary data use can now be directly approved by the survey implementer and procedures have been simplified, so in the new system secondary data use now is considerably easier. Moreover, the New Statistics Act now allows for the provision of anonymized data and for custom tabulations for the purpose of academic research and higher education.

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