Working Papers





How Much Did People Refrain from Service Consumption due to the Outbreak of COVID-19?

Author:Tsutomu Watanabe, Yuki Omori


With the spread of coronavirus infections, there has been a growing tendency to refrain from consuming services such as eating out that involve contact with people. Self-restraint in service consumption is essential to stop the spread of infections, and the national government as well as local governments such as the Tokyo government are calling for consumers as well as firms providing such services to exercise self-restraint. One way to measure the degree of self-restraint has been to look at changes in the flow of people using smart phone location data. As a more direct approach, this note uses credit card transaction data on service spending to examine the degree to which people exercise self-restraint. The results indicate that of men aged 35-39 living in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the share that used their credit card to pay for eating out in March 2020 was 27 percent. Using transaction data for January, i.e., before the full outbreak of the virus in Japan, yields an estimated share of 32 percent for March.  This means that the number of people eating out fell by 15 percent. Apart from eating out, similar self-restraint effects can be observed in various other sectors such as entertainment, travel, and accommodation. Looking at the degree of self-restraint by age shows that the self-restraint effect was relatively large among those in their late 30s to early 50s. However, below that age bracket, the younger the age group, the smaller was the self-restraint effect. Moreover, the self-restraint effect was also small among those aged 55 and above. Further, the degree of self-restraint varies depending on the type of service; it is highest with regard to entertainment, travel, and accommodation. The number of people who spent on these services in March 2020 was about half of the number during normal times. However, the 80 percent reduction demanded by the government has not been achieved.