Sayuri Shirai, 06 October 2017

Interest rates in many advanced economies have been declining since the 1990s. This column takes a close look at the case of Japan. In 2013 the Bank of Japan pursued a policy of quantitative and qualitative monetary easing that aimed to lower the real interest rate substantially below its natural rate. The evidence suggests that this policy has had mixed success at best, and that the natural rate of interest may decline in the foreseeable future.

Antonin Bergeaud, Gilbert Cette, Rémy Lecat, 04 September 2017

Over the 20th century, GDP growth was mainly driven by total factor productivity growth. Since the mid-2000s, however, productivity growth has been in decline. This column explores the history and future of growth focusing on four developed economies: the US, the Eurozone, the UK, and Japan. Simulated scenarios for the 21st century show a wide range of potential growth outcomes, dependent on whether total factor productivity growth stays indefinitely low, and whether the digital economy delivers a new productivity growth wave.

Tomoya Mori, 25 August 2017

The population sizes of cities are highly indicative of their industrial structure. This column identifies the cities in Japan in which manufacturing industries have significant agglomeration, and reveals that the number of these agglomeration cities differs widely across industries, with industries that are located in a smaller number of cities being found in larger cities. There is also considerable churning of population and industrial activities among Japanese cities, with population growth reflecting the development of highway and high-speed railway networks.

Sayuri Shirai, 31 July 2017

Portfolio rebalancing through large-scale asset purchases is one of the major transmission channels under the zero lower bound. This column assesses whether the channel has been effective in Japan, focusing in turn on financial institutions, firms, and households. Japanese firms and households are notoriously risk averse, limiting the effectiveness of the portfolio rebalancing channel. These results suggest that more drastic structural reforms and growth strategies are needed.

Keisuke Kondo, 23 July 2017

The large literature on agglomeration economies attests to the higher average productivity of firms in larger cities. However, this literature focuses on positive externalities, and a second potential mechanism – selection against less productive firms – has received little empirical attention. This column explores how these two mechanisms contribute to higher productivity in Japanese cities. Consistent with earlier work considering the case of France, no evidence for a selection effect is found.

Hiromi Hara, 19 July 2017

Although the gender wage gap in Japan has been decreasing over the last 15 years, it remains large. This column shows that both the ‘glass ceiling’ and the ‘sticky floor’ exist in the Japanese labour market. The country’s human resource management system and a culture which rewards those who are willing to work outside of regular hours are to blame.

Kazunobu Hayakawa, Toshiyuki Matsuura, 09 July 2017

Foreign direct investment has generally been found to have positive effects for firms in their home country. There are, however, concerns about potential negative effects for other domestic firms in the investing firm’s supply chain. This column uses Japanese firm-level data to explore the supply chain effects of foreign direct investment. Foreign direct investment does not appear to have adverse effects on domestic transaction networks. Rather, the positive effects of firms’ foreign investing are found to spread to the whole economy through their supply chains.

Masayuki Morikawa, 06 July 2017

Given the early stages of diffusion of many AI and robotic technologies, it is too early to measure the impact of these innovations on jobs. This column uses comprehensive survey data from Japan to measure the extent to which workers across different industries, levels of education, and occupations perceive their jobs to be at risk. Workers with adaptable skills acquired through higher education (particularly in science and engineering) or occupation-specific skills (particularly those in human-intensive personal services) are less worried about their jobs being replaced by AI and robotics.

Masayuki Morikawa, 03 July 2017

Occupational licensing is a common solution to the information asymmetry that exists in many professions and services. Using original survey data from Japan, this column examines how occupational licensing affects labour participation and wages. A majority of respondents are found to possess occupational licenses, and licensing is positively associated with labour force participation, particularly amongst women and the elderly.

Christopher Meissner, John Tang, 16 June 2017

Economists have long been interested in the dynamics of comparative advantage, but have only recently begun to use detailed product-level data in their analysis. This column examines the Japanese experience after the liberalisation of the 1850s. It suggests that trade costs, destination market demand conditions, and product specific factors played key roles in Japanese exports growth. Roughly 30% of growth in exports between 1880 and 1910 came from shipping new goods to new countries, selling new goods to extant trade partners, and introducing existing products to new countries.

Hidemichi Fujii, Shunsuke Managi, 16 June 2017

Patent applications are a good indicator of the nature of technological progress. This column compares trends in applications for artificial intelligence patents in Japan and the US. One finding is that the Japanese market appears to be less attractive for artificial intelligence technology application, perhaps due to its stricter regulations on the collection and use of data.

Athanasios Orphanides, 06 June 2017

Results of actions taken by central banks across advanced economies in response to the Global Crisis have been uneven in allaying fears regarding debt sustainability. This column compares the cases of Italy and Japan to that of Germany to examine whether monetary policy actions since the crisis have become a more important driver of debt dynamics than fiscal policy actions. In contrast to Japan, where in the past few years decisive monetary policy actions have allayed fiscal concerns, in Italy monetary policy decisions appear to have contributed to debt sustainability concerns.  

Yuki Higuchi, Miyuki Sasaki, Makiko Nakamuro, 20 May 2017

The quality of English language teaching in Japan is disappointing when compared with other East Asian countries or with the quality of other school subjects. This column assesses the impact of an English learning programme via Skype for Japanese high school students. Although a positive impact on English communication skills could not be established, mostly likely due to the low utilisation of the programme, it did have a positive impact on student attitudes. Policymakers may wish to consider how to combine regular English lectures and online English learning programmes to improve results.

Hiroyasu Inoue, Yasuyuki Todo, 25 April 2017

Natural disasters have enormous economic consequences, with the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake providing a particularly stark recent example. This column uses supply chain data for more than one million Japanese firms to explore how negative shocks from natural disasters propagate through firm networks. Shocks are found to propagate very quickly, due in large part to certain ‘hub’ firms that have a high number of supply chain partners. Production substitution is the key to slowing the propagation.

Sayuri Shirai, 16 March 2017

The Bank of Japan has been pursuing quantitative and qualitative monetary easing since 2013, but has failed to achieve its target of a stable 2% inflation rate. This column explores the Bank’s recent practices and performance, and identifies four structural factors that have contributed to the limited impact of unconventional monetary easing on aggregate demand and inflation. The Bank now needs to come up with more objective projections for the timing of achieving its price stability target. 

Mary Amiti, David Weinstein, 12 February 2017

We are living in a world in which banks are large relative to the economies they serve. This column uses comprehensive data on Japanese banks from 1990 to 2010 to examine how the fates of individual banks matter for aggregate performance. Much of the fluctuation in Japanese aggregate investment appears to be driven by the idiosyncratic successes and failures of a limited number of institutions, and there is good reason to believe that the situation is similar in many developed countries.

Kazutaka Takechi, 05 February 2017

The trade patterns of agricultural products, which are traded inter-regionally on a daily basis, are quite volatile, with trade often not taking place at all. Using daily data on the carrot trade in Japan, this column shows how supply and demand shocks and trade costs can cause frequent changes in supply patterns. Policies to reduce fixed trade costs, such as improving inventory management or traffic control, are needed even in a country with sufficient transport infrastructure such as Japan.

Lianming Zhu, Koji Ito, Eiichi Tomiura, 28 January 2017

We still know little about how firms alter their global sourcing patterns when facing uncertainty and shocks. This column uses Japanese firm-level data compiled after the Great East Japan earthquake of 2011 to show that firms in affected areas reacted immediately by offshoring more, but that this affect was significant only in the manufacturing sector. Policies to facilitate offshoring would support such emergency responses in future.

Giovanni Facchini, Yotam Margalit, Hiroyuki Nakata, 09 January 2017

Far-right parties have made considerable electoral gains around the world lately, fuelled in part by strong anti-immigration rhetoric. This column presents the results of an experiment conducted in Japan to assess whether exposure to positive information about immigration can decrease this public hostility. Such information exposure is found to increase an individual’s likelihood of supporting immigration by between 43% and 72%. This suggests that information campaigns are a very promising avenue for policymakers aiming to redress hostility to immigration.

Toshihiro Okubo, Eiichi Tomiura, 02 January 2017

The core-periphery gap raises important questions for economic geography. Using Japanese data, this column examines firms’ decision to separate non-production activities from production plant facilities. Large plants, plants which intensively purchase materials, and plants located further from the core are more likely to have separate corporate headquarters, though the magnitude of this effect is small. Small-sized plants appear to be especially vulnerable to remoteness from urban cores.

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