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.
Toshihiro Okubo, Tetsuji Okazaki, Eiichi Tomiura, 19 July 2016
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.
Julia Tanndal, Daniel Waldenström, 13 April 2016
Financial deregulation in the US has been shown to be associated with rising income inequality over the past four decades. This column looks at the income effects of financial deregulation in the UK and Japan during the 1980s and 1990s. As in the US, deregulation substantially increased the shares of income going to the very top of the distribution. These findings highlight the importance of financial markets in the evolution of income inequality in society.
Masayuki Morikawa, 11 April 2016
Forecasts of business conditions affect investment decisions. This column provides evidence that this is the case in Japan, using firm-level data collected between 2004 and 2014 covering several significant economic events. It also shows that the impacts of business condition forecasts on investment are similar across manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries.
Yukiko Abe, Beata Javorcik, Naomi Kodama, 27 March 2016
Gender inequality is greater in Japan than in other developed countries, and in response the country has implemented steps towards improving female employment. This column presents new evidence suggesting that foreign companies are an unexpected ally in promoting female labour market participation. Foreign direct investment has the potential to improve the allocation of talent and contribute to faster economic growth.
Shujiro Urata, 16 February 2016
A series of mega-regional free trade agreements are currently being negotiated. This column argues that Japan is in a unique position to be able to negotiate with due regard for consistency among these agreements. It should thus seek to bring negotiations to a successful end and to expand and integrate the mega-regional FTAs. This will help rebuild the world trade regime so as to pave the way for achieving economic growth for the entire world.
Ayumu Tanaka, 17 January 2016
Firms that engage in international markets tend to pay higher wages. This column provides new evidence on the wage premiums for exporters and multinational firms in Japan. The results show that wage premium for foreign-owned firms is far more important than that for exporters and domestically owned multinational firms.
Takanori Ago, Tadashi Morita, Takatoshi Tabuchi, Kazuhiro Yamamoto, 04 January 2016
There are common geographical differences in working hours between countries and regions. Working hours are longer in developing countries, as well as in more urbanised regions compared to rural ones. This column explains these differences with two key factors: production technology and urban agglomeration. Technological progress leads to a decrease in working hours, whereas urban agglomeration leads to an increase.
Yasuyuki Todo, 24 December 2015
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was reached in October following seven years of negotiations. This column examines how Japan can maximise the TPP’s effect on its economy, identifying several additional policies that will be necessary. These include support for Japanese small and medium enterprises seeking to expand operations overseas, and policies that encourage and ease incoming foreign direct investment.
Kazuhito Yamashita, 02 January 2016
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being held up as a model for 21st century trade agreements. This column looks into its implications for Japan. It says that agricultural sectors such as rice and beef won’t be affected as some form of protection will remain. It concludes that while the TPP may help Japan gain access to foreign markets, Japanese agriculture has lost another opportunity for revitalisation.
Willem Thorbecke, 21 December 2015
A good understanding of the evolution of exports over the years is crucial for the design of trade policy. This column dissects Japanese exports using a gravity model and concludes that it would be beneficial for Japanese companies to diversify their exports by shipping more to China, Europe, and South Korea.
Jamal Haidar, Takeo Hoshi, 21 October 2015
The Abe administration has outlined a desire for Japan to rank among the top three OECD countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking. This column uses the Doing Business ranking itself to identify potential reforms the country could pursue to improve its position. Several politically viable, non-judicial reforms could quickly and easily move Japan up in the ranking. The approach highlights how the Doing Business rankings can be used to inform policy reform discussions.
Hiroyuki Motegi, Yoshinori Nishimura, Kazuyuki Terada, 25 September 2015
It is still not clear whether the effect of retirement on health is positive or negative. This column discusses new evidence from Japan showing that it is likely positive. In Japan, elderly people reduce their smoking and drinking after retirement. People tend to smoke and drink with their colleagues, so the result is mostly due to a peer effect.
Hiroshi Yoshikawa, Hideaki Aoyama, Yoshi Fujiwara, Hiroshi Iyetomi, 05 September 2015
Deflation is a threat to the macroeconomy. Japan had suffered from deflation for more than a decade, and now, Europe is facing it. To combat deflation under the zero interest bound, the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank have resorted to quantitative easing, or increasing the money supply. This column explores its effectiveness, through the application of novel methods to distinguish signals from noises.