Japanese People Save So Much Money!

Japanese People Save So Much MoneyPrime minister Shinzo Abe’s victory in the recent election in Japan opens up significant opportunities for political and economic change. But not in the case of one of the biggest structural problems facing the Japanese economy — the tendency of business to save vastly more than it invests, with deflationary consequences.

日本首相安倍晋三(Shinzo Abe)在最近的大选中获胜为政治和经济改革开启了重大机遇。但日本经济面临的最大的结构性问题之一仍无起色,这个问题就是企业储蓄资金往往远远超过投资,由此带来通缩性后果。

In an ageing society like Japan’s, deflation ought to be a dwindling threat. Rising numbers of elderly people could be expected to save less while consumption should increase with age thanks to relatively generous pensions and healthcare. At the same time, a shrinking workforce should enjoy increased labour market power and demand higher wages.

在一个像日本这样的老龄化社会里,通缩威胁理应日渐式微。随着老年人日益增多,得益于相对慷慨的养老金和医疗服务,储蓄理应下降,同时消费应该随着年龄增长而增加。与此同时,劳动力日益减少应该意味着劳动者在就业市场上的力量上升,他们可以要求更高的薪资。

In the event Japanese households have reduced their savings close to zero. Yet this has been more than offset by the rise in corporate savings. At the same time wage growth has failed to materialise. Lifetime employees continue to value security of employment and feel a loyalty to the company, which keeps them docile. There has also been a big increase in the number of part time workers whose bargaining power is weak.

Learn English Hong Kong – Cyberchondriac

实际上,日本家庭的储蓄的确下降至接近于零的水平。然而,这完全被企业储蓄的增长所抵消。与此同时,工资增长未能实现。终身雇员继续看重就业安全,并对公司保持忠诚,这让他们保持顺从。谈判实力较弱的兼职人员数量也大幅增加。

Too much income is trapped in a risk-averse corporate sector awash with record profits, while Japan suffers from a structural deficiency of consumer income. The country has only escaped a 1930s-style slump because the government has run huge deficits to sustain demand, at the cost of soaring public sector debt.

太多的盈余被厌恶风险的企业部门留存,这些企业的利润达到创纪录水平,同时日本遭遇消费者收入结构性匮乏的问题。日本避免了上世纪30年代的那种衰退,只是因为政府运行巨额赤字以维持需求,代价是公共部门债务飙升。

The Abe government’s response to cash hoarding has been to push for higher wages and try to make corporate governance more shareholder friendly. The companies act was amended in 2014 to promote better boards and a corporate governance code was introduced the following year. The aim was to enhance corporate performance and encourage co-operation with stakeholders while securing shareholder rights. A stewardship code was also brought in to prod institutional investors into engaging with company management.

安倍政府对企业囤积现金的回应是呼吁提高薪资,并努力让企业治理对股东更加友好。日本在2014年修订了公司法以强化董事会职能,并在第二年出台了企业治理条例。目的是增强企业表现,并鼓励公司在保障股东权利的同时,与所有利益相关者合作。日本还推出了管理守则,以促使机构投资者参与公司管理。

While the reforms have encouraged a greater focus on returns on equity, there has been no radical change in business behaviour. As deputy prime minister Taro Aso acknowledged recently, there is an issue here of form versus substance. Akira Matsumoto, chairman of food group Calbee, declared at an OECD conference last month that his governance priorities were customers first, followed by employees, then the community, with shareholders trailing in fourth place. That view is widely shared by other business leaders. And Japan continues to have the lowest dividend payout ratio among the Group of Seven major developed countries.

虽然这些改革鼓励了公司加大关注股本回报率,但商业行为并没有发生根本变化。正如日本副首相麻生太郎(Taro Aso)最近承认的那样,这里存在着形式与实质的问题。食品集团卡乐比(Calbee)董事长松本晃(Akira Matsumoto)上月在经济合作与发展组织(OECD)的一个会议上宣称,他的治理重点首先是顾客,其次是员工,然后是社区,股东位居第四。其他企业领导人普遍认同这一观点,而日本在七国集团(G7)中的股息支付率仍然是最低的。

The limited effectiveness of Japan’s governance reforms is, in one sense, unsurprising. Japanese company law in the postwar period made directors formally accountable to shareholders. But in a dispersed ownership system lacking dominant family shareholders, such accountability was meaningless. Companies were run in the interests of managers and workers. Indeed, the genius of the postwar Japanese model of capitalism was that it did away with capitalists. In place of the money motive as the motor for economic growth, it substituted the employees’ work ethic.

日本治理改革效果有限从某种意义上说不足为奇,日本在战后出台的公司法使得董事们在正式的层面向股东负责。但是在缺乏家族大股东的分散的所有权体系中,这种问责制度毫无意义。公司为了经理和工人的利益而经营。的确,战后日本资本主义模式的高明之处在于排除了资本家。就经济增长动力而言,社会用员工的职业道德取代了金钱激励。

The Japanese economy is currently enjoying a cyclical upturn. Yet Japan remains stuck with its structural savings surplus and governance scandals endure. When I asked Tomoyuki Furusawa, deputy director-general of the supervisory bureau of Japan’s Financial Services Agency, how long it would take for genuine shareholder accountability to emerge, he suggested five years.

日本经济目前正处于周期性好转阶段。然而日本仍然受到结构性储蓄盈余的困扰,同时治理丑闻挥之不去。当我问日本金融厅(Financial Services Agency)监督局官房担当古泽知之(Tomoyuki Furusawa)真正的股东问责制将需要多久才能出现的时候,他提出要五年。

Responding to the same question, Mark Mobius of fund manager Franklin Templeton, opted for 20 years. He felt the stakeholder mindset was too entrenched to permit earlier change. Certainly governance reform alone seems unlikely to secure sweeping changes in business savings behaviour.

在回答同样的问题时,基金公司富兰克林邓普顿(Franklin Templeton)的麦朴思(Mark Mobius)给出的答案是20年。他觉得利益相关者的思维定势太深,以至于不会允许更早的变革。当然,单单治理改革似乎不太可能彻底改变企业储蓄行为。