Tadashi Ito, Yukiko Saito, 16 April 2019

Small and medium-sized firms can enjoy the benefits of trade liberalisation by exporting their goods or importing inputs through intermediaries. Using firm-level data from Japan, this column finds that firms in regional areas are smaller than those in metropolitan areas and are less likely to participate in indirect or direct trade. Direct and indirect exports and imports represent a large share of regional economies, and indirect exporters in regional areas are likely to become direct exporters. In addition, both newly started direct export/import firms and newly started indirect export/import firms tend to grow faster.

Nobuaki Hamaguchi, Keisuke Kondo, 10 April 2019

Computerisation and robotics have had a profound effect on labour markets. Using data from Japan, this column finds that female workers are more exposed to risks of computerisation than male workers, and that this tendency is more pronounced in larger cities. The results suggest that supporting additional human capital investment alone is not enough as a risk alleviation strategy against new technology. Policymakers need to address structural labour market issues, such as gender biases in career progression and participation in decision-making positions.

Jeffrey Frankel, 29 March 2019

The supposed deadline for a conclusion to China–US trade negotiations has been postponed until late April. This column argues that the structural reform aspect of the negotiations is reminiscent of US negotiations with Japan three decades ago, and that the Structural Impediments Initiative between the two countries could, in theory, serve as a useful model for the current US–China negotiations. The question is whether Presidents Trump and Xi have as firm a grasp on economic principles as their predecessors. 

Isamu Yamamoto, 14 March 2019

The adoption of new information technologies such as AI in more workplaces is influencing not just employment and wages, but worker well-being such as job satisfaction, stress, and health. Surveying approximately 10,000 workers in Japan, this column analyses the impact of new information technologies on the nature of tasks performed by workers, job satisfaction, and work-related stress. It finds that AI adoption contributes to both greater job satisfaction and increased stress, and considers approaches to maximise the positives of new technologies adoption while minimising its negative side effects.

Natasha Kalara, Lu Zhang, Karen van der Wiel, 09 March 2019

The Global Crisis has profoundly changed the financial landscape, including firm financing. This column examines the development of various channels of firm financing before and after the crisis among four groups of EU countries, the US, and Japan. While bank finance and, to some extent, equity finance are under pressure, alternative finance, although small, seems to be on the rise.

Yoshiyuki Arata, 13 February 2019

The complex networks formed through customer–supplier relationships between firms have the potential to propagate shocks across the economy. This column explores how bankruptcy is propagated through a network of approximately one million Japanese firms. Bankruptcy propagation is observed empirically, but only very infrequently and with very limited reach. This is because the increased connectivity between firms disperses bankruptcy shocks such that they immediately die out. 

Satoshi Shimizutani, 14 January 2019

Social security reforms in advanced economies may give people incentives to work past retirement age. The column estimates the financial incentives to work or retire at each age for elderly men and women in Japan. There is a correlation between series of social security reforms to reduce generosity and the recent recovery of employment rates for men aged 60-69 and for women aged 55-64.

David Bloom, Paige Kirby, JP Sevilla, Andrew Stawasz, 03 December 2018

Worldwide ageing trends are steering global demographics into uncharted territory, transforming populations and societies around the globe. Japan is leading the way in this growth wave as the world’s oldest population and is now grappling with the substantial socioeconomic burdens an ageing population places on society. This column discusses the coming challenges associated with population ageing alongside plausible solutions. While there is no magic bullet for these challenges, there is scope to devise a multi-pronged solutions portfolio of complementary initiatives that includes a number of measures to promote and protect elderly health.  

Banri Ito, 01 September 2018

With protectionism on the rise around the world, the question of why politicians often call for protectionist trade policies in their election campiagnsis becoming more important than ever. This column introduces empirical evidence from Japan to show that politicians from constituencies facing a substantial increase in imports, and therefore stronger electoral pressure, are more likely to advocate protectionist trade policies.

Antonio Fatás, 16 June 2018

Koji Ito, 03 June 2018

Support for ‘anti-globalist’ policies across the developed world suggests that many people are concerned about the impact of globalisation on employment and wages. This column examines the wage premium for exporting among firms in Japan, using linked employer-employee data to control for other factors that may affect wages. Exports and wages clearly are correlated in Japan’s manufacturing sector, especially for smaller-scale plants and firms. 

Keiichiro Kobayashi, 05 May 2018

Future generations cannot influence current policies, while today’s policymakers and voters tend to be focused on the present. Understanding how to reconcile this disconnect is important for resolving intergenerational issues such as sustainability and swelling government debt. This column introduces the interdisciplinary field of ‘future design’ and discusses insights from a recent workshop held at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Japan. It also proposes several directions for future design research.

Masayuki Morikawa, 31 March 2018

The Japanese economy is suffering its worst labour shortage since 1992. This column explores the impact of this shortage, in light of the past five years’ economic expansion. The main effect has been a decline in the quality of goods and services, which translates into increases in true prices. Going forward businesses should start differentiating their goods and services to capture the growing diversity of consumers’ willingness-to-pay.

Atsushi Nakajima, 27 March 2018

As the global economy continues to recover, trade frictions between advanced and emerging economies have started to appear. This column considers how Japan can continue its recent trend of economic expansion by addressing domestic growth opportunities while remaining resilient to international trade challenges. Both technological innovation and new business models are key to achieving this.

Hiroyuki Nakata, 22 March 2018

Many advanced economies are facing the twin challenges of an ageing population and public hostility towards immigration. This column studies the impact of demographics on attitudes towards immigration in Japan, and the effectiveness of information campaigns explaining the benefits of immigration. It finds that information campaigns are effective in improving attitudes towards immigration, especially amongst women. Deep generational gaps in attitudes towards immigration may be caused by younger men in particular viewing immigrants as potential competitors.

Tadashi Ito, Ryohei Nakamura, Manabu Morita, 13 February 2018

For regional firms to survive, they need to find export markets using wholesalers as intermediaries. This column uses a dataset of export activity in Japan to show that this type of indirect export activity occurs predominantly from metropolitan areas, with the probability of direct exports negatively correlated with the distance between manufacturer and wholesaler. Wholesaler productivity (though not manufacturer productivity) was correlated with the probability of these indirect exports, suggesting that wholesalers search for suitable manufacturers, but not vice versa.

Koji Ito, Ivan Deseatnicov, Kyoji Fukao, 23 January 2018

The study of global value chains has become increasingly relevant as production becomes more and more fragmented across countries. This column uses evidence from Japan to evaluate recent theories that such chains have caused some of the country’s industries to become less competitive. The findings suggest that considering production for exports and domestic sales separately may provide a more complete picture of firm heterogeneity within industries, and a more complete picture of interconnected countries at the industry level.

Atsushi Ohyama, 14 December 2017

The length of time industries prosper varies significantly. This column examines why some industries grow and prosper for a long period of time through the lens of submarket creation and destruction. Using data from the Japanese Census of Manufacture, it shows that the creation and the destruction of products allow an industry to continue attracting new entrants, that start-up and spinoff firms are more likely to enter a newly created submarket than incumbent firms, and that new entry is encouraged when unrealised business opportunities are reallocated smoothly.

Shujiro Urata, Atsuyuki Kato, 01 December 2017

Many governments have engaged in free trade agreements to facilitate the growth of regional production networks and global value chains, but critics argue that such agreements damage domestic industries. This column uses Japanese evidence to show that free trade agreements can increase the significance of the domestic industry in a country’s supply chain networks through intra-firm trade, and restrain the hollowing-out of the domestic industry.

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