Chie Aoyagi, Giovanni Ganelli, 19 August 2014

Japanese corporations hold a very high level of cash on their balance sheets compared to those in other advanced countries. Such excessive corporate savings are likely to be holding back growth by preventing a more efficient use of resources. This column presents recent research showing that improving corporate governance would help unlock Japan’s corporate savings, exit deflation, and revive growth. Comprehensive corporate governance reform should be a key component of Japan’s growth strategy.

Coen Teulings, Richard Baldwin, 10 September 2014

The CEPR Press eBook on secular stagnation has been viewed over 80,000 times since it was published on 15 August 2014. The PDF remains freely downloadable, but as the European debate on secular stagnation is moving into policy circles, we decided to also make it a Kindle book. This is available from Amazon; all proceeds will help defray VoxEU expenses.

Kaoru Hosono, Daisuke Miyakawa, 13 August 2014

Natural disasters affect firm activities both directly and indirectly. One prominent indirect effect is on firms’ transaction partners, in particular – their banks. This column shows how damage to banks affects firm activities, such as capital investment and exports, using as a natural experiment Japan’s 1995 Kobe earthquake. Bank damage has a significant and negative impact on both firm investment and on exports but this effect does not last very long.

Kaoru Hosono, Daisuke Miyakawa, 09 August 2014

In the wake of the Global Crisis, several central banks have adopted unconventional monetary policies. This column presents new evidence from Japan on the transmission of monetary policy through banks’ balance sheets. Overall, the evidence suggests that bank net worth affects loan supply, that the effect depends on monetary policy and economic growth, and that this bank balance sheet channel has a significant impact on firms’ financing and investment. Exiting from unconventional monetary policies when bank balance sheets are weak could thus have a severe adverse impact on investment.

Masayuki Morikawa, 20 July 2014

Innovation is a key driver of productivity growth, but innovation in the service sector has received relatively little attention. This column shows that the total factor productivity gap between Japanese firms with and without innovations is larger in services than in manufacturing. Whereas the percentage of firms holding patents is much higher in manufacturing than in services, trade secrets are just as important in both sectors. These results suggest that the protection of trade secrets makes an important contribution to productivity growth.

Hiromi Ishizuka, 10 July 2014

Japan has one of the highest labour market gender gaps among the advanced economies. This column examines the current status of gender diversity in management in Japan, China, and South Korea. Despite some pronounced differences, economic gender gaps are large in all of the three countries. But overall, gender diversity in management in Japan is slowly beginning to emerge.

Masayuki Morikawa, 19 June 2014

Headquarters play important strategic roles in modern companies, but downsizing of headquarters is often advocated as a cost-cutting measure. This column presents evidence from Japanese firm-level data that the size of headquarters is positively associated with firms’ overall productivity. Moreover, the benefits of ICT are greater for companies with relatively large headquarters. Downsizing headquarters to cut costs may thus be harmful for long-term company performance.

Masayuki Morikawa, 26 August 2014

Headquarters play important strategic roles in modern companies, but downsizing of headquarters is often advocated as a cost-cutting measure. This column presents evidence from Japanese firm-level data that headquarters size is positively associated with firms’ overall productivity. Moreover, the benefits of ICT are greater for companies with relatively large headquarters. Downsizing headquarters to cut costs may thus be harmful for long-term company performance.

Shusaku Nishiguchi, Jouchi Nakajima, Kei Imakubo, 02 May 2014

Inflation expectations are not fully captured with a single number. One important aspect is the degree of "disagreement" or "dispersion" in such expectations. This column discusses how the distribution of Japanese households' medium-horizon inflation expectations evolved using survey data. As prices have been rising since 2013, the expectations distribution showed a decrease in respondents expecting deflation or high inflation, and there was a substantial increase in respondents expecting moderate inflation.

Mickey Levy, 21 February 2014

A popular view among economic commentators is that rich countries face a serious risk of deflation, and should adopt aggressive macroeconomic stimulus policies to ward it off. This column argues that despite similar headline inflation rates, the US, Europe, and Japan in fact face very different macroeconomic conditions. In the US, much of the recent disinflation is attributable to positive supply-side developments. In Europe, an aggressive round of quantitative easing might encourage policymakers to delay the reforms that are necessary to avoid a prolonged Japanese-style malaise.

Tomohiko Inui, Ryoji Matsuoka, Makiko Nakamuro, 16 January 2014

Parents worry that their children waste too many hours playing video games or watching TV that would be better spent studying. Whereas past research has focused on teenagers, this column presents evidence on the causal effects of study and leisure hours for children of elementary school age, when key lifetime habits are being developed. Video entertainment is found to be a less significant determinant of time spent studying than parental involvement (such as supervision).

Giovanni Ganelli, 15 January 2014

The third arrow of Abenomics aims at reviving growth in Japan. This column presents research showing that revamping Japan’s dual labour markets to increase productivity should be an important component of the growth strategy. An increase in the level of employment protection of regular workers tends to increase duality, while an increase in the protection of temporary workers has the opposite effect. Reducing the difference in the employment protection would help to reduce the labour-market duality, and reducing the duality results in a higher growth. This would lead to a decrease in unemployment, and could help to exit deflation.

Kozo Kiyota, Tetsuji Okazaki, 06 January 2014

The presumed success of Japanese post-war industrial policy has been used to advocate similar policies in other countries. Key to such arguments then is the empirical demonstration of the policies’ effects. This column presents research making use of a novel dataset that allows controlling for industry heterogeneity across many disaggregated industries. The effects of the quota removal on productivity were significantly positive, while the effects of tariffs on labour productivity were insignificant.

Yukiko Saito, 15 December 2013

Natural disasters severely disrupt supply chains. This article presents evidence from the Great East Japan Earthquake that the spillover effects on disaster-hit firms’ suppliers were worse than those on their customers. For those firms that shut down, however, the effects on their customers were worse, and were transmitted along the supply chain. Firms with partners inside the affected area were more likely to form new business relationships, but those whose partners shut down were not. This suggests disaster relief should be targeted to the hardest-hit firms.

Masahisa Fujita, 18 November 2013

A major feature of globalisation in the last decades has been the emergence of global supply chains, especially in Asia. This column explains how supply chains may increase the risks of shock contagion across countries. It shows how the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the floods in Thailand had ripple effects on the Japanese automobile industry across countries. It suggests that greater international cooperation, such as the development of sister industrial clusters, is one way to mitigate the risks.

Masayuki Morikawa, 02 November 2013

Reduced policy uncertainty can contribute to a country’s economic growth. This column highlights the negative influence of policy uncertainty and political instability on the growth of Japan. A survey shows that international trade and tax polices pose the greatest uncertainty on Japanese companies. The column concludes with a discussion of the mechanism via which uncertainty affects corporate behavior.

Satoshi Shimizutani, 12 September 2013

Policymakers in the developed world are fretting over how to care (and pay) for their ageing populations. This column unpacks the thinking behind Japan’s extensive Long-term Care Insurance Program, arguing that there are too many sweeping assumptions about the elderly and how they behave. So how can we best design policy for long-term care? As ever, it is only from well-funded and comprehensive datasets – such as the Japanese Study on Aging and Retirement, now in its fourth year – that effective policy will come.

Takatoshi Ito, 11 September 2013

Abenomics comprises three ‘arrows’. The monetary and fiscal arrows have been launched; the pro-growth arrow has not. This column suggests that arguments over the consumption tax burn up precious political capital that would be better spent on growth reforms. A consumption-tax hike won’t stall the expansion, but debates over it threaten to stop reform momentum. The time to release the third arrow is now.

Takeshi Kimura, Jouchi Nakajima, 31 August 2013

Unconventional monetary policy is now routine, but its impact is still poorly understood. A key difficult is empirically separating policy changes – ‘shocks’ – from other factors driving the economy. This column proposes a new estimation framework for identifying monetary-policy shocks in both conventional and unconventional policy regimes and applies it to Japan. Japan’s increase in bank reserves lowered long-term interest rates in the unconventional policy regime and may have had a positive impact on inflation and the output gap.

Ayako Saiki, 15 June 2013

Abenomics is all the rage. Japan’s GDP grew at an annual rate of 3.5% in the first quarter, the stock market went up by almost 30% since December, and despite some uncertainties, sentiments, consumption, and exports are all picking up. However inflation is at -0.9% and survey-based inflation expectation has remained flat. Is inflation going to happen at all? This column argues the answer crucially hinges upon the implementation of structural reforms, especially in the labour market.

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