Photo/IllutrationBars, cabarets and night clubs were excluded from the labor ministry’s Basic Survey on Wage Structure. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

It seems that bureaucrats in the labor ministry can't get anything right these days.

Reeling from near-daily revelations about the sloppy handling of wage data to pay unemployment and other welfare benefits, it now emerges the ministry sent and collected questionnaires for its annual survey on wages by mail in breach of authorized procedure.

In its report on the method of conducting the Basic Survey on Wage Structure submitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for approval, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare was supposed to dispatch commissioned individuals to offices and factories to gather data.

Instead, it mailed questionnaires to almost all of the 80,000 or so offices and factories being surveyed around the country, and waited for the replies to be sent back.

In another oversight, it neglected to include bars and cabarets for the survey although such establishments should have been covered.

Both the internal affairs and labor ministries confirmed Jan. 28 that the proper procedure was not followed.

A labor ministry official in charge of an investigation into the manner in which the Basic Survey on Wage Structure was carried out told a news conference late Jan. 28 that the ministry “is still investigating” the reason for and motives behind the flawed survey taking.

The labor ministry could find itself in violation of the Statistics Law on grounds it carried out the survey in a manner not authorized by the internal affairs minister.

The internal affairs minister has final oversight of the planning and method of conducting government surveys. When a ministry seeks to change the way statistics are gathered, it is obliged to gain the minister's approval.

The Basic Survey on Wage Structure is one of the government’s most fundamental statistics surveys.

It tracks workers’ wages based on their employment status and years of continuous employment through business establishments across Japan.

The labor ministry’s local labor bureaus generally keep tabs on workers’ wages for each June.

But it also emerged that some bureaus moved the deadline for the survey at their discretion.

The survey was supposed to include bars, cabarets and night clubs under the industry group subcategory of accommodations and eating and drinking establishments.

The survey results are used to determine the level of benefits due recipients recognized by the labor ministry as having sustained a job-related injury.

At the news conference, the labor ministry official did not rule out the possibility that the amount of injury benefits paid out to date may have to be adjusted as a result of the new revelation.

The official added that the Statistics Commission at the internal affairs ministry will determine whether any modification will be necessary.

The Statistics Law lists 56 government surveys as providing fundamental statistics on the state of the nation.

The internal affairs ministry reviewed their veracity after it surfaced last month that flawed methodology was used in the labor ministry’s Monthly Labor Survey.

After finishing the review on Jan. 24, the internal affairs ministry announced that 22 of the 56 statistical surveys contained errors or were conducted in a manner different from the one authorized by the internal affairs minister.

The flawed method of conducting the Basic Survey on Wage Structure was detected the following day, raising the number of defective key government surveys to 23.

Nobutaka Yokota, director-general for policy planning at the internal affairs ministry, called the revelation of an error in the review process “extremely regrettable.”

The internal affairs ministry will summon a meeting of the Statistics Commission Jan. 30 to brief the members on its review findings.

The ministry pledged to re-examine 233 general surveys by the government for irregularities.