Kazunobu Hayakawa, Hans Koster, Takatoshi Tabuchi, Jacques-François Thisse, 08 April 2021

The economic and social consequences of investments in transport infrastructure generate heated academic and policy debates because they typically involve costly investments that are supposed to yield high payoffs. Particularly telling examples of large transport infrastructure investments are investments in high-speed rail. This column shows that the Shinkansen has had a substantial effect on Japan’s spatial distribution of employment. The relative position of municipalities within the network and their underlying location fundamentals are essential in understanding why the effects of an extensive infrastructure are positive or negative at the local level.  

Masayuki Morikawa, 12 March 2021

Working from home has become much more prevalent across advanced economies during the Covid-19 pandemic. This column uses survey data from Japan to explore how widely working from home has been adopted across industries and how productive employees are at home. It finds that the overall contribution of working from home to labour input is surprisingly small. Even where firms adopted the practice, many employees did not exploit it; and even those who did work from home did not necessarily do so throughout the week. The firm survey responses suggest that across industries, the average productivity of employees when working from home relative to at the workplace is 68.3%, which is similar to the findings from an employee survey. The results suggest that there is room for improvement to make working from home more feasible.

Gee Hee Hong, Yukiko Saito, 25 February 2021

Firm exits have been at the centre of policy discussions since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This column explores Japanese firm exit patterns during severe crises as well as during normal times. Using a dataset that distinguishes firm exit types, the authors find that Japanese firms mainly exit voluntarily, while bankruptcy rates are extremely low. Further, Japanese firms respond to economic shocks mainly through adjustments to output instead of exits – as was seen during the Covid-19 crisis. The ‘cleansing effects’ of firm exits vary by exit type, but appear stable during the current crisis.

Karen Eggleston, Yong Suk Lee, Toshiaki Iizuka, 17 February 2021

Firm-level studies are important for understanding how robots augment some types of labour while substituting for others, yet evidence outside manufacturing is scarce. This column reports on one of the first studies of service sector robots, which suggests that robot adoption has increased some employment opportunities, provided greater flexibility, and helped to mitigate turnover problems among long-term care workers. The wave of technologies that inspires fear in many countries may be a remedy for the social and economic challenges posed by population ageing in others.

Daisuke Adachi, Daiji Kawaguchi, Yukiko Saito, 09 February 2021

Previous studies have reported that the adoption of robotic technologies in industry reduces both employment and wages. This column examines the experience of Japan, which is unique due to early industry penetration and the fact that almost all the robots were domestically produced. Applying a different method from those in previous studies, it shows that the penetration of industrial robots has positive impacts on both employment and wages. This implies the potential for harmonisation of human work with future labour-replacement technology, such as artificial intelligence.

So Kubota, Koichiro Onishi, Yuta Toyama, 27 January 2021

To mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 economic recession, many countries provided financial support to individual households. This column examines a Japanese entitlement programme that distributed a fixed and sizable cash sum to all residents during the crisis. Using data from 2.8 million anonymised bank transactions and a natural experimental design, the authors suggest that payments from the programme resulted in significant spending responses, particularly from households that suffered liquidity constraints and income loss in 2020. The column also maps the implications of counterfactual targeting policies.

Mitsuhiro Osada, Kazuki Otaka, Satoko Kojima, Ryuichiro Hirano, Genichiro Suzuki, Nao Sudo, 26 January 2021

COVID-19 has brought about severe adverse effects on the economy around the globe, and Japan is no exception. This column introduces a model that maps cash shortages to firm's default probability, employing the balance sheet data of about 730,000 SMEs. It uses the model to assesses how a decline in sales due to Covid-19 increases the default probability of firms and how much the government's financial support mitigates a rise in that probability.

Daisuke Adachi, Taiyo Fukai, Daiji Kawaguchi, Yukiko Saito, 16 January 2021

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic this year has led to a surge in teleworking and prompted renewed interest in the importance of commuting patterns for geographical labour markets. This column introduces commuting zones for Japan, based on the percentage of within-area commuting. The commuting zones, which the authors are making available for future academic use, capture well heterogeneity in the labour market. 

Tsuyoshi Nakamura, Hiroshi Ohashi, 20 October 2020

Recent studies have shown average firm markups increasing in the US and other developed countries, driven by a small share of ‘superstar’ firms which have expanded their market shares and consolidated technological advantages. This column uses firm-level data to show that similar trends in markups are missing in Japan. In addition, intangible capital investments do not boost market power in the country. Instead, a strong predictor of average markup in Japan is firm age, with older firms enjoying significantly higher market power. 

Hiromitsu Goto, Yuji Fujita, Wataru Souma, 25 August 2020

The current economic crisis calls for a pandemic-resistant supply chain network in the post-COVID-19 era. This column investigates the Japanese supply chain network at the firm level and discusses its dynamics, resilience, and robustness. It shows that the network can be characterised by a ‘walnut’ structure, with an intricately connected centre surrounded by upstream and downstream components. Despite the maturity of the Japanese economy, the network is actively changing, with fast-growing firms becoming more connected and slow-growing firms moving to the periphery. Fully understanding this structure will be crucial in making supply chain networks resilient to pandemics in the future.

Eiichi Tomiura, Banri Ito, Byeongwoo Kang, 12 August 2020

Cross-border data flows are increasingly critical for modern firms, and the regulation of data poses a distinctly novel challenge for policymakers in the 21st century. This column presents survey data from Japan, investigating exactly which type of firm are most likely to be affected by regulations surrounding the international exchange of data. The results of the study suggest that new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and 3D printers are usually adopted by the most productive and innovative firms, and that hampering these firms with regulation may create harmful effects for the wider economy.

Michèle Belot, Syngjoo Choi, Egon Tripodi, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Julian C. Jamison, Nicholas W. Papageorge, 24 July 2020

Almost all countries in the world have implemented drastic measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. This column documents the effects of the epidemic and containment measures using representative individual data on age and income from three Western and three Asian countries. Younger groups in all countries have been affected more, both economically and non-economically. Differences across income groups are less clear and less consistent across countries. The young are less compliant and supportive of the containment measures, no matter how hard they have been affected by them.

Toshihiro Okubo, 25 June 2020

The Japanese government’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to ask people to refrain from leaving their homes and to encourage teleworking. This column examines the effect of COVID-19 on the uptake of teleworking in a country that has the lowest use among developed countries. Overall, teleworking increased about 4 percentage points from January to March 2020, driven by industries and occupations related to information and located in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Teleworking is not suited to face-to-face services and manual labour, which saw substantial declines in worker incomes.

Eiji Yamamura, Yoshiro Tsutsui, 22 June 2020

Japan has had relatively few victims of COVID-19, even though the Japanese government has adopted more modest measures than other nations. Nonetheless, the pandemic has been a substantial strain on citizens' mental health, which may have triggered rises in domestic violence. This column presents evidence from various Japanese prefectures, focusing on people’s mental wellbeing before and after the state of emergency was declared. Results indicate that the announcement led citizens to take preventive steps, but caused them to experience certain heightened emotions. Crucially, the importance of mental healthcare should not be overlooked as an additional policy consideration.  

Kaoru Hosono, Miho Takizawa, Kenta Yamanouchi, 21 June 2020

How do firms grow as they age after establishment? What drives high growth rates for young firms? Using a large dataset from Japan for the period from 1995 to 2015, this column argues that the accumulation of intangible capital plays a significant role in the growth of physical productivity, which, in turn, accounts for a major part of sales growth as firms age. Of the three types of intangible capital – organisational capital, software, and R&D stocks – organisational capital explains a large part of the sales growth.

Youngmin Baek, Kazunobu Hayakawa, Kenmei Tsubota, Shujiro Urata, Kenta Yamanouchi, 03 June 2020

Anti-globalisation sentiment has been spreading around the world in recent years. Since trade liberalisation is one of the representative characteristics of globalisation, investigating who benefits from it, and to what extent, can be an important starting point in analysing the causes of anti-globalisation sentiment and promoting liberalisation. This column explains how the rent from trade liberalisation, in the form of tariff reductions, is distributed among foreign producers, wholesalers, and consumers by investigating the tariff pass-through for each player.

Pierre Cahuc, Jérémy Hervelin, 28 April 2020

It is widely believed that apprenticeships lead to better employment outcomes. This column presents the results of a field experiment conducted in France to show that apprentices do not perform significantly better than vocational students when they look for jobs outside the firm in which they trained. This means that the positive effects of apprenticeship on youth employment come from the retention of apprentices in their training firms. If the effectiveness of apprenticeship is the creation of better matches between labor market entrants and jobs, policies should focus more on the collaboration between schools and public employment services.

Keiko Ito, Kenta Ikeuchi, Chiara Criscuolo, Jonathan Timmis, Antonin Bergeaud, 23 April 2020

Interconnectedness and relative position in global production networks is an important factor for modern economies. In recent years, Japanese firms have lost their relative influence within the regional value chain. This column analyses the relationship between measures of network centrality and firm innovation output. It finds that having access to a greater breadth of customers is positively related to innovative activities, measured by patent applications. The results suggest an important role of knowledge spillovers from foreign markets.

Hiroyasu Inoue, Yasuyuki Todo, 16 April 2020

Cities and regions around the world are in lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19. This column examines how the economic effect of the lockdown of a city can propagate to other regions in the country, focusing on the case of Tokyo. The findings suggest that if Tokyo were to be locked down for two weeks, the loss in value added production in the city would be 4.3 trillion yen, while the production loss in the rest of Japan due to propagation through supply chains would be 5 trillion yen. In addition, the effect on other regions becomes progressively larger as the duration of the lockdown grows.

Masayuki Morikawa, 10 April 2020

Japan, similar to many countries hit by the COVID-19 shock, has experienced a sudden increase in people working from home. This column exploits the teleworking arrangements implemented at the author’s workplace to investigate the impact on productivity. In a survey, workers indicate that they are, on average, less productive at home than in the office. While some of the reasons for this, such as lack of familiarity with remote access software, will fade over time, other factors suggest that a productivity gap will remain.

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