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.

Yoosik Youm, Kazuo Yamaguchi, 11 December 2016

Japan and South Korea are distinctive among developed countries for their gender inequality in managerial positions. This column looks at the ‘glass ceiling’ in the two countries. After controlling for age, education, and employment duration, between 70% and 80% of the gender disparity is unexplained in both countries, with women appearing to face greater inequality as they move up to more senior managerial positions.

Stephen Cecchetti, Kim Schoenholtz, 07 December 2016

The Bank of Japan has recently implemented one of the largest central bank policy shifts in modern times, raising its inflation target explicitly to 2% and kicking off the most rapid balance sheet expansion among the leading central banks. This column assesses this policy decision and its potential pitfalls, and compares it to similar policies enacted in the past. Unless policy has a significantly larger impact on financial conditions going forward than it has to date, the revised framework will likely be insufficient to achieve the Bank’s inflation target any time soon.

Yoshio Higuchi, Kozo Kiyota, Toshiyuki Matsuura, 04 December 2016

There is a belief among the general public that employment volatility tends to be greater for firms with higher foreign exposure, but the relationship between the two is ambiguous in theory. This column uses firm-level data for Japan to compare the impact of foreign exposure on employment volatility for multinational, trading, and non-trading firms; for manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade; and for intra-firm and inter-firm trade. In manufacturing, the effect of exports on the volatility of employment varies, depending on the share of intrafirm exports to total sales. In wholesale retail, the effect of exports is generally insignificant. 

Hisamitsu Saito, Toshiyuki Matsuura, 25 November 2016

Agglomeration’s impact on product quality has received much less attention than its impact on productivity, despite the importance of quality as a precondition for economic development. This column employs plant-product-level data from Japanese manufacturing to assess the effects of urban agglomeration on product quality. The findings suggest that state and municipal tax breaks, and other public efforts to attract enterprises, enhance economic competitiveness by improving product quality along with productivity.

Yoshio Higuchi, Naomi Kodama, Izumi Yokoyama, 11 November 2016

Studies have confirmed an increase in earnings inequality in Japan, but do not agree on how or when it increased, or which groups were most affected. This column decomposes changes in earnings data to show a recent decrease in the returns to general human capital of almost all Japanese workers, at the same time as an increase in the returns to firm-specific human capital among male workers with high wage rates. Gender-based wage inequality has persisted.

Kozo Kiyota, Keita Oikawa, Katsuhiro Yoshioka, 09 October 2016

The international competitiveness of industries has received much scholarly attention, but this research has tended to focus on Europe and North America. This column examines the competitiveness of industries in six Asian countries. Global value chain income is increasing in China, India, and Indonesia. And unlike workers in EU countries, workers in the Asian countries have benefited from this increased competitiveness.

Yoshihiko Kadoya, Mostafa Saidur Rahim Khan, 01 October 2016

Economists increasingly emphasise the role of financial literacy in explaining savings, investment, and retirement planning decisions. This column uses data from a nationwide survey in Japan to investigate the relationship between financial literacy and late-life anxiety. Financial literacy appears to reduce anxiety by making people both financially and psychologically prepared for old age. 

Toshihiro Okubo, Tetsuji Okazaki, Eiichi Tomiura, 19 July 2016

In the context of increased global trade and accompanying competition, firms are increasingly engaged in industrial clusters. This column uses firm-level transaction data to analyse the impact of firms’ relationships with financial institutions on their networking within clusters. Firms participating in government-supported cluster programmes increase their transaction networks significantly faster than those not in clusters. The column also finds that firms with expanding networks are mainly financed by regional banks, not national or global ones.

Masayuki Morikawa, 10 July 2016

The service sector accounts for much of the output of many advanced economies, and maximising the sector’s output while also minimising regional disparities is an important policy challenge. This column analyses productivity in service sectors in Japan, focusing on economies of urban density. The higher the employment density of the cities in which service firms are located, the higher their productivity, but firms relocating to such cities negatively impacts regional disparity. Further, considerable differences in productivity improvements among sectors indicate there certain industries should be promoted in large cities, and others in smaller cities with lower employment density.

Nobuya Fukugawa, Akira Goto, 08 July 2016

Local public technology centres (Kosetsushi) in Japan have demonstrated notable success in fostering the development of regional industries. This column reports the results of the first branch-level survey of Kosetsushi, focusing on three areas: manufacturing, foods, and design. Kosetsushi are found to help clients through diverse, tailored technical consultations and, increasingly, by acting as a network hub for the transfer of symbolic and analytical knowledge. These findings have particular relevance for regional governments attempting to foster innovation through similar institutions.

Masayuki Morikawa, 23 June 2016

The shifting balance between manufacturing and service industries in developed economies has significant implications for long-term growth and international trade. This column uses Japanese firm-level data to analyse the impact of ‘factoryless goods producers’ on overall productivity. As these producers specialise in tasks in which advanced economies have a comparative advantage, it is anticipated that when combined with falling production costs and trade liberalisation, they will contribute to economic growth.

David Cashin, Takashi Unayama, 18 June 2016

Japan’s prime minister recently announced that a planned 2% VAT increase would be postponed from 2017 to 2019. This column explores how Japanese household consumption adjusted to a VAT increase that was announced in 2013 and implemented in 2014. Household consumption fell by around 4% upon announcement and 1% upon implementation, suggesting that most of the negative impact of a VAT rate increase occurs at the time of the announcement. 

Masayuki Morikawa, 07 June 2016

The substitution of human labour by artificial intelligence and robots is a keenly debated topic. Some claim that a substantial share of jobs is at risk, while others argue that computers and robots will lead to product innovations and hence to unimaginable new occupations. This column uses a survey of Japanese firms to examine the impact of AI-related technologies on business and employment. Overall, firms expect a positive impact on business but a negative impact on employment. Firms with a highly skilled workforce, however, have a more optimistic view than firms with lower skilled employees.

Andrew Bernard, Toshihiro Okubo, 23 April 2016

Recent research has found that certain firms increase their innovative activity during periods of falling demand. This column investigates this puzzle by analysing how Japanese firms adjust their product mix over the business cycle. During transitions from recession to expansion, firm-level product churning – that is, simultaneously adding and dropping products – increases by 25%. The findings lend support to the ‘trapped factor’ model, in which negative demand shocks see the redeployment of underemployed resources towards innovation processes.

Sagiri agiri Kitao, 15 April 2016

Most countries with a generous pay-as-you-go social security system and ageing demographics will need to implement significant welfare reform, such as a major cut in benefits or a significant increase in distortionary taxation. Individuals’ uncertainty about when such a policy change will occur will cause precautionary saving and changes in factor prices, affecting aggregate welfare. This column uses evidence from Japan to show that delaying welfare reform will benefit the elderly, at a long-lasting cost to the young.

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