RIETI Report June 9, 2023

Reviewing 3 Years of COVID-19 with Consumption Big Data

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Welcome to RIETI Report.
This bi-weekly newsletter will keep you updated with the recent columns, event information and research results by RIETI fellows and other leading economists in Japan and around the world.

In this edition we present topics related to the past few years of COVID-19 reviewed through consumption big data. Throughout the pandemic, RIETI Senior Fellow Yoko Konishi and her colleagues have been analyzing point of sale (POS) data and household account book application data to record and disseminate consumption behavior information in Japan, which cannot be fully detected using only official survey data. She says collecting multiple types of data and preparing to create platforms that are useful for quick political decisions during peacetime are important.

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Editors of RIETI Report (Facebook: @en.RIETI / Twitter: @RIETIenglish / URL: https://www.rieti.go.jp/en/)

This month's featured article

Reviewing 3 Years of COVID-19 with Consumption Big Data

KONISHI YokoSenior Fellow, RIETI

Using Big Data to see the changes in our daily lives

On May 5, 2023, the World Health Organization ended its global health emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic. For 1,191 days since the global health emergency declaration on January 30, 2020, our eating, learning, working and leisure practices were transformed. In particular, in the first half of 2020, panic consumption occurred focusing on COVID-19 infection prevention goods and paper products. We witnessed such changes to consumer behavior every day through media and video sources.

At the time, I had a gut feeling that these unprecedented changes would not be detected through official statistical surveys alone. During the COVID-19 pandemic, purchases of goods and services fluctuated in volume on a daily or weekly basis depending on the infection status and government announcements. Such fluctuations were not expected to be reflected in official statistical surveys which mainly consist of monthly and annual aggregations. In the initial phase of the pandemic especially, data had to be quickly reported to detect panic consumption and make quick decisions to secure supply routes and inventories. In addition, detailed sales trends by product were required for infection prevention goods, food products, day-to-day necessities and drugs, for which demand fluctuated greatly during the pandemic.

Therefore, we analyzed point of sale and household account book application data and continued to record and disseminate consumption behavior information in Japan throughout the pandemic.

Impetus provided by the METI Big Data Project

From 2016 to 2020, I participated in the Project for the Development of New Indicators Utilizing Big Data at the Research and Statistics Department of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The main objective of the project was to reduce the burden on survey targets, cut survey costs and improve the speed and level of detail of survey reports by utilizing private sector big data for official statistical surveys. At the same time, we proactively released new indicators. In November 2019, we developed a METI POS retail sales index (micro) using POS data from INTAGE Inc. (hereinafter referred to as INTAGE) and GFK Marketing Service Japan., in order to ascertain the impact of the consumption tax hike that occurred at that time. The "BigData-STATS Dashboard (β version)" was launched on the METI website to publish the previous week’s sales trend indicators every Friday, allowing viewers to capture the actual status of consumption on a real-time basis (updates were discontinued on April 2, 2022).

During the chaotic period between the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and Japan’s first state of emergency declaration, this project became a platform for public-private cooperation allowing government and other public organizations to share daily sales trends for infection prevention products and day-to-day necessities. In addition, the dashboard was used as a source of information on consumption trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, displaying conference documents produced by government and other public organizations, reports by private think tanks, and material from media outlets and researchers.

To read the full text:

Related articles

“Change in Eating Habits and Avoidance of Cash Becoming Clearer—Consumption Trends Evidenced by Big Data”
KONISHI Yoko (Senior Fellow, RIETI)

“Impact of cash transfers on consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from Japanese Special Cash Payments”
HATTORI Takahiro (University of Tokyo) / KOMURA Norihiro (Kyoto University) / UNAYAMA Takashi (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)

“RIETI Approach to COVID-19”
MORIKAWA Masayuki (President, RIETI)

Related paper

“Social Learning and Behavioral Change When Faced with the COVID-19 Pandemic: A big data analysis”
OTA Rui (Yokohama City University) / ITO Arata (Senior Fellow, RIETI) / SATO Masahiro (Tohoku University) / YANO Makoto (Chairman, RIETI)

Related videos

"How did Japan cope with COVID-19? Two Years of Documenting Consumption Behavior with Big Data"
KONISHI Yoko (Senior Fellow, RIETI)

“Economics in the Time of Covid-19: The economic impact on Asia”

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