Tetsuji Okazaki, 13 November 2019

During World War II aircraft production in Japan increased sharply. This column, part of the Vox debate on the economics of WWII, examines the reasons for this ‘production miracle’, focusing on an aircraft manufacturing plant of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Co., one of the two largest aircraft producers in Japan. The key to the production increase was the expansion of the supplier network. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries organized many suppliers to provide aircraft parts to its plants. However, in the final stage of the war, destruction of the supplier network by strategic bombing and an earthquake caused the collapse of the company’s aircraft production.

Tsutomu Miyagawa, Takayuki Ishikawa, 13 November 2019

Following the Global Crisis, some countries increased expenditures on research and development (R&D) to address secular stagnation. This column investigates how successful this rise in R&D scale was in supporting productivity growth in Japan and other advanced economies. It argues that R&D efficiency has declined in many of these countries in the past decade, compared to the preceding ten years. This suggests that increasing R&D spending is not enough to foster growth, and that countries need to do more to support innovation and collaboration in carefully chosen sectors.

Chang Sun, Zhigang Tao, Hongjie Yuan, Hongyong Zhang, 03 November 2019

The trade war between the US and China has had impacts on other countries – including Japan, one of the most important trading partners of both countries. The column uses quarterly sales data and stock market returns to show that the operations in China of Japanese MNCs have been negatively affected by the trade war, especially when Chinese affiliates rely heavily on trade with North America. This has led to a reduction in their stock prices. 

Willem Thorbecke, 02 October 2019

Japanese exports in electronic parts and components dramatically fell in value after the Global Crisis and have not recovered until today. This column investigates why Japan lost this comparative advantage. It argues that capital inflows seeking safe havens during the crisis led to a sharp appreciation of the yen and caused yen export prices to tumble relative to production costs. Plummeting profits then hindered Japanese firms from investing enough in capital and innovation to compete with rivals.

Hiroko Okudaira, Miho Takizawa, Kenta Yamanouchi, 24 September 2019

Studies often find an aggregated near-zero employment effect when increasing the minimum wage. But the effects might vary if local employers in different regions have different market power. The column examines increases in the minimum wage in Japan and finds a more pronounced negative employment effect in local labour markets where employers had less control over wages.

Hideo Owan, 19 September 2019

Many Japanese companies complain about a shortage of qualified workers. This column argues that the difficulty is partly driven by flawed recruitment practices and suggests improvements to the hiring process. For example, customised aptitude tests and team-based structured interviews could help remedy the situation. 

Hiroyasu Inoue, Yasuyuki Todo, 10 September 2019

Natural disasters can have enormous economic consequences that affect firms both directly and indirectly. Using the example of the Great East Japan Earthquake, this column investigates how the propagation of shocks varies with the characteristics of supply chains. It finds that the indirect effects are far larger than the direct effects. Shocks propagate more widely and are more persistent if supply networks have complex cycles and low input substitutability.

Phillips Payson O’Brien, 03 September 2019

Allied victory in WWII is usually viewed through the lens of large land battles, from Stalingrad to Kursk to D-Day. However, battlefield losses of equipment in these ‘great’ land battles were relatively small and easily replaceable. This column demonstrates that the real effort of the major powers was put into the construction of air and sea weapons. The Allies used their air and sea power to destroy the Axis’s in a multi-layered campaign. This was the true battlefield of WWII: a massive air-sea super battlefield that stretched for thousands of miles. Victory in this super-battlefield led to victory in the war.

Alan Bollard, 05 September 2019

The World Wars precipitated unprecedented economic problems in all countries. This column, part of a Vox debate on the economics of WWII, describes how economists played a larger role in WWII than in any previous conflict. They advanced the methods of public finance and influenced the directions of the war effort. By the end of the war, economists were widely embedded in government and policymaking.

Cormac Ó Gráda, 02 September 2019

Of WWII’s warring powers only the Soviet Union suffered mass starvation, but as this column, part of a Vox debate on the economics of WWII, describes, it is a measure of the war’s global reach that 20 to 25 million civilians died of hunger or hunger-related diseases outside Europe. In Britain effective rationing ensured a ‘fair’ distribution of food supplies throughout the war and in Germany the famine conditions experienced in 1918-19 were not replicated, but Japan was facing semi-starvation at war’s end. In Europe, apart from Greece and the Soviet Union, famine mortality was modest, but 3-5% of the populations of faraway Bengal, Henan, and Java perished. 

Tomoya Mori, Jens Wrona, 16 August 2019

The gravity equation has often been used to explain trade between regions or cities within countries. But it assumes that the distribution of industries is exogenous. This column explains how trade estimates are affected if we assume that large, centrally located cities attract more industries whose firms are more likely to export to other cities. Japanese data show exports from these cities are systematically underpredicted by aggregate gravity estimations, as the theory predicts.

Tomoya Mori, 11 August 2019

The growth of large cities is often attributed to their proximity to exogenous, first-nature advantages. This column uses data on 450 Japanese cities to show that in fact, the regularity of agglomeration holds as a natural consequence of endogenous agglomeration and dispersion forces at the global or local level, rather than exogenous factors.

Sayuri Shirai, 18 July 2019

Modern monetary theory (MMT) has recently gained prominence in light of doubts about the effectiveness of monetary policy in addressing economic shortfalls. This column assesses the implications of implementing the theory’s policy prescriptions, and the challenges it presents in the case of Japan – an economy that some have argued has already been subject to such policy. Japan’s labour shortages and low inflation mean modern monetary theory’s fiscal stimulus suggestions may be harder to implement than they initially seem.

Toshimori Otazawa, Yuki Ohira, Jos van Ommeren, 09 July 2019

Relationship-based distance has become as important a determinant of firm interactions as physical distance in recent years. This column presents evidence to support the claim that firms physically locate closer to others that proximate in their transaction networks, though this effect varies across industries and by age of firms.

Takatoshi Ito, Satoshi Koibuchi, Kiyotaka Sato, Junko Shimizu, 10 June 2019

Japan exports to neither advanced nor Asian countries in yen, as would be expected. Using questionnaire data, this column shows why Japanese exporters tend to choose destination currencies in their exports to advanced countries and why the US dollar, rather than the yen, is more often used in their exports to Asia. It also presents new evidence that the share of local currency has recently increased markedly, while that of the US dollar has declined, in Japanese exports to Asia. 

Selahattin İmrohoroğlu, Sagiri Kitao, Tomoaki Yamada, 07 June 2019

Japan leads the advanced economies in the speed and magnitude of demographic ageing and has the highest debt-to-output ratio. Rising social insurance expenditures are projected to far outpace revenues and to create a fiscal burden. This column presents sobering projections for Japanese government debt in the absence of reform, but argues that a combination of policies, including policies to encourage greater labour participation by women and to enhance productivity, could achieve sustainability.

Liu Yang, Bin Ni, 21 May 2019

Concerns have been raised that outward foreign direct investment may reduce domestic employment and lead to the ‘hollowing-out’ of the manufacturing industries at home. This column uses a unique dataset of Japanese firms’ overseas activities to show that going abroad does not necessarily lead to a reduction of domestic employment. Investment by Japanese firms into other Asian countries has a positive impact on domestic job creation and a negative impact on job destruction, whereas the impact of investment into European and North American countries is negative for both job creation and destruction in Japan.

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, 11 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. 



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