Engaging in Profound Studies of Economic Statistics with a Flexible Mindset, Including the Economic Census and Population Census


Mikio Suga, Professor

Department of Economics, Faculty of Economics
Posted Mar.3,2021

Faculty Profile

Professor Mikio Suga engages in a wide range of statistical surveys as an expert in economic statistics. He also provides advice and makes proposals to contribute to producing statistics that employ flexible ideas across a range of fields.

Subtleties of human nature cannot be quantified in statistical surveys

I specialize in economic statistics, which is one field of statistics. I also design surveys and examine survey items in addition to analyzing the results of surveys.

I have been involved in a range of statistical surveys, including those conducted by the Japanese government on national affairs, such as the 2020 Population Census and the Economic Census*. The Population Census targets households, while the Economic Census targets business establishments and companies to survey their economic activities. The two censuses are thus conducted for different purposes, and accordingly, the survey methods involved and important points to be noted also differ substantially. I am one of the few involved in both of these censuses.

The main purpose of statistical surveys is to grasp the current situation and predict future trends. The Population Census is conducted every five years to compare current and past results for the purpose of predicting trends in structural changes. For the census, in view of the changes of the times, it is necessary to revise survey items, which is one of the interesting points concerning statistical surveys.

Conducting statistical surveys may lack excitement and the tabulation results may seem uninspiring. However, you will find that statistical surveys are not that simple once you understand the background and the survey method.

For example, in one population census conducted in a certain country, it was stated in one of the survey forms that the household was composed of an elderly couple and one child. On the form, the age of the child was stated as two years old, which seemed strange. The details were therefore investigated. It was found that the “child” was in fact a companion dog. I can understand the elderly couple’s affection for their dog, but this example shows what a bitter experience such surveys can be for the statisticians.

When conducting a survey, it is also not easy to make a list of the targeted entities. Information managed by the government does not always match the actual situation. For example, even if a business is officially registered, it might be dormant and not conducting any business operations. Also, there may be businesses who changed their address but did not make the necessary notifications. In order to conduct an accurate statistical survey, it is therefore necessary to devise measures to confirm the facts, including visiting each targeted entity or sending postcards to them in order to check whether or not the businesses are actually active at the stated address. This is the most important part of a statistical survey, and is also the most difficult part because it entails the delicate issue of privacy.

Indeed, many things cannot be revealed until a survey is conducted. In fact, I feel that statistical data reflects the subtleties of human nature, which cannot be quantified.

*Economic Census: Complete survey conducted targeting business establishments and companies. The Economic Census is composed of the Economic Census for Business Frame and the Economic Census for Business Activity, and is regarded as being just as important as the Population Census and the System of National Accounts (SNA).

History of contribution to Japan’s economic statistics

I had been engaged in econometrics, conducting empirical analyses in the field of economics by using statistical methods, when I became interested in the statistics, and I therefore began to delve into economic statistics.

I chose Hosei University as the base for my research because its adjunct facility is the Japan Statistics Research Institute.

The National Resources Research Institute, the predecessor of the Japan Statistics Research Institute, opened within the Bank of Japan during World War II. After the war, the institute was restructured into an independent incorporated foundation and renamed the Japan Statistics Research Institute. At that time, Mr. OUCHI Hyoe was heading the institute while also serving as president of Hosei University, and the relationship between the university and the institute deepened. As a result, in 1953, the institute was relocated to the university’s premises, and subsequently in 1981, it became the university’s adjunct facility.

Japan’s statistical system developed remarkably after the war, having been supported by the United States to enable the calculation of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), economic growth rate and other indicators. However, it has been pointed out that the survey methods which had long been in use are no longer a perfect match in today’s informatized society.

In response, in order to foster further development of economic statistics in Japan, the Japan Statistics Research Institute has been giving lectures as well as holding international workshops, in which participants learn about the latest survey methods from experts in practical statistical work invited from overseas.

At the workshops held by the Japan Statistics Research Institute that invite lecturers from overseas (mainly the United States), participants learn about practical statistical methods. (Photo taken in 2018.)

Participants in the workshops include researchers and members of companies engaged in statistical surveys as well as those belonging to the university. The workshops contribute toward developing the field of economic statistics. (Photo taken in 2018.)

Thinking about yourself objectively helps you to acquire practical wisdom

Statistical methods are widely utilized in society, for example, to estimate average lifespan, economic trends, winning odds for sports, and even the Cabinet’s approval rating. Learning about the basics of statistics and showing statistical results as objective evidence helps to increase your persuasiveness. Statistical skills are thus very important in a contemporary informatized society, and it is recommended that you acquire at least very basic statistical knowledge.

Personally, I hope that you will encounter talented people while you are students. Meeting someone who is astoundingly accomplished and unique helps you to think about yourself objectively and inspires you to search for what you can do. I expect that by reviewing yourself sincerely and thinking a lot, you will be able to acquire the practical wisdom that will help you to survive society’s hardships.


The professor exchanging with his students frankly. The photo was taken in 2019 at a farewell party held for graduates.

Mikio Suga, Professor

Department of Economics, Faculty of Economics

Born in Tokyo in 1968.
After graduating from Keio University’s Faculty of Business and Commerce, completed a Master’s course at the university’s Graduate School of Business and Commerce. He then completed a Doctor’s course at the graduate school without acquiring a Doctoral degree. Acquired a Doctoral degree in business and commerce in 2001. Has served as professor at Hosei University since 2011, following stints as a lecturer at Tokai University’s School of Humanities and Culture and as associate professor and professor at Tokyo International University’s Faculty of Economics. Member of the Japan Statistical Society and the Pan Pacific Association of Input-Output Studies. Head of the Japan Statistics Research Institute since 2017.