经济学人双语版-不太一样 Not quite all there

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FlyTitle: The post-covid economy

The new “nearly normal” will be a long way from the status quo

从现状到新的“近常态”还有很长一段路【新冠报道】

经济学人双语版-不太一样 Not quite all there

IN THE 1970s Masahiro Mori, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, observed that there was something disturbing about robots which looked almost, but not quite, like people. Representations in this “uncanny valley” are close enough to lifelike for their shortfalls and divergences from the familiar to be particularly disconcerting. Today’s Chinese economy is exploring a similarly unnerving new terrain. And the rest of the world is following in its uncertain steps.

上世纪七十年代,东京工业大学的教授森政弘发现,那些看起来和真人几乎一样但又不完全一样的机器人会给人带来某种不适。处于这个“恐怖谷”区间的机器非常逼真,以至于它们那些与人类的不同之处尤其让人不安。眼下的中国经济正在探索同样令人不安的新地域。而世界其他地区正跟随它走上不确定的道路。

Whatever the drawbacks of these new lowlands, they are assuredly preferable to the abyss of lockdown. Measures taken to reverse the trajectory of the pandemic around the world have brought with them remarkable economic losses.

无论这些新低地有何不足,肯定也好过封城的深渊。世界各地为逆转这场大流行病的传播轨迹所采取的措施同时也造成了巨大的经济损失。

Not all sectors of the economy have done terribly. New subscriptions to Netflix increased at twice their usual rate in the first quarter of 2020, with most of that growth coming in March. In America, the sudden stop of revenue from Uber’s ride-sharing service in March and April has been partially cushioned by the 25% increase of sales from its food-delivery unit, according to 7Park Data, a data provider.

并非所有部门的情况都那么糟糕。奈飞(Netflix)在2020年第一季度的新订户增速是正常水平的两倍,其中大部分增长发生在3月。数据供应商7Park Data的统计显示,在美国,优步的网约车服务在3月和4月“断流”,但其食品配送业务的销售额增长了25%,弥补了部分损失。

Yet the general pattern is grim. Data from Womply, a firm which processes transactions on behalf of 450,000 small businesses across America, show that businesses in all sectors have lost substantial revenue. Restaurants, bars and recreational businesses have been badly hit: revenues have declined some two-thirds since March 15th. Travel and tourism may suffer the worst losses. In the EU, where tourism accounts for some 4% of GDP, the number of people travelling by plane fell from 5m to 50,000; on April 19th less than 5% of hotel rooms in Italy and Spain were occupied.

但总体形势很严峻。为美国各地的45万家小企业处理交易的Womply的数据显示,各行各业的企业都遭受了相当大的收入损失。餐馆、酒吧和娱乐业受到了严重打击:自3月15日以来它们的收入下降了约三分之二。出行和旅游业的损失可能最为惨重。在旅游业占GDP约4%的欧盟,乘飞机出行的人数从500万跌到五万;4月19日,意大利和西班牙的酒店客房入住率不足5%。

According to calculations made on behalf of The Economist by Now-Casting Economics, a research firm that provides high-frequency economic forecasts to institutional investors, the world economy shrank by 1.3% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, driven by a 6.8% year-on-year decline in China’s GDP. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York draws on measures such as jobless claims to produce a weekly index of American economic output. It suggests that the country’s GDP is currently running about 12% lower than it was a year ago (see chart 1).

向机构投资者提供高频率经济预测的研究公司Now-Casting Economics为本刊所做的计算显示,在中国GDP同比下降6.8%的影响之下,2020年第一季度世界经济同比萎缩1.3%。纽约联储采用失业救济申领人数等数据,生成了一个美国每周经济产出指数。该指数显示目前美国的GDP比去年同期下降了约12%(见图表1)。

经济学人双语版-不太一样 Not quite all there

These figures fit with attempts by Goldman Sachs, a bank, to estimate the relationship between the severity of lockdowns and their effect on output. It finds, roughly, that an Italian-style lockdown is associated with a GDP decline of 25%. Measures to control the virus while either keeping the economy running reasonably smoothly, as in South Korea, or reopening it, as in China, are associated with a GDP reduction in the region of 10%. That chimes with data which suggest that if Americans chose to avoid person-to-person proximity of the length of an arm or less, occupations worth approximately 10% of national output would become unviable.

这些数字与高盛得出的结果相吻合。这家投资银行估计了封城措施的严厉程度与它们对经济产出的影响之间的关系,经粗略计算后发现,意大利式的封城措施与25%的GDP下降相关联。像韩国那样在控制疫情的同时保持经济基本平稳运行或像中国那样在控制住疫情后重新开放经济的措施与本地区10%的GDP下降相关联。有数据表明,如果美国人选择避免与人近距离接触,那么贡献了全美产出约10%的职位将难以为继。这与高盛的发现相吻合。

The “90% economy” thus created will be, by definition, smaller than that which came before. But its strangeness will be more than a matter of size. There will undoubtedly be relief, fellow feeling, and newly felt or expressed esteem for those who have worked to keep people safe. But there will also be residual fear, pervasive uncertainty, a lack of innovative fervour and deepened inequalities. The fraction of life that is missing will colour people’s experience and behaviour in ways that will not be offset by the happy fact that most of what matters is still available and ticking over. In a world where the office is open but the pub is not, qualitative differences in the way life feels will be at least as significant as the drop in output.

这就造成了“九成经济”,顾名思义,经济的规模将小于从前。但其中的不寻常之处不仅仅是规模大小。毫无疑问,疫情过后人们会有解脱和同舟共济的感觉,并将重新对那些努力保护人们安全的人产生或表达敬意。但同时也会有残留的恐惧感、普遍的不确定性、匮乏的创新激情,以及加剧的不平等。尽管大部分生活必需品还在供应和缓慢运转,但这带来的宽慰并不能弥补生活中缺失的那一小部分事物对人们的体验和行为产生的影响。在一个照常上班却不能照常去酒吧的世界里,人们会感受到相当大的生活品质的落差,至少与经济产出下滑的程度相当。

The plight of the pub demonstrates that the 90% economy will not be something that can be fixed by fiat. Allowing pubs—and other places of social pleasure—to open counts for little if people do not want to visit them. Many people will have to leave the home in order to work, but they may well feel less comfortable doing so to have a good time. A poll by YouGov on behalf of The Economist finds that over a third of Americans think it will be “several months” before it will be safe to reopen businesses as normal—which suggests that if businesses do reopen some, at least, may stay away.

酒吧行业的困境表明,“九成经济”的问题将无法通过政令来解决。如果人们不愿意去酒吧和其他社交娱乐场所,那么即使开放这些场所也没什么用。很多人以后还是得走出家门去上班,但他们很可能会觉得不安心,也就没法保持愉快的心情。YouGov为本刊做的一项民意调查发现,超过三分之一的美国人认为,还要“再过几个月”,企业重新正常营业才够安全。这表明,即使企业重新开门营业,至少有一部分人可能还是不会光顾。

Ain’t nothing but tired

无精打采

Some indication that the spending effects of a lockdown will persist even after it is over comes from Sweden. Research by Niels Johannesen of Copenhagen University and colleagues finds that aggregate-spending patterns in Sweden and Denmark over the past months look similarly reduced, even though Denmark has had a pretty strict lockdown while official Swedish provisions have been exceptionally relaxed. This suggests that personal choice, rather than government policy, is the biggest factor behind the drop. And personal choices may be harder to reverse.

瑞典的一些迹象表明,封城对支出的影响即使在封城结束后也将持续。哥本哈根大学的尼尔斯·约翰内森(Niels Johannesen)及其同事研究发现,虽然丹麦实行了相当严格的封锁措施,而瑞典的官方规定特别宽松,但过去几个月里两国的总体支出似乎出现了同样程度的减少。这表明,造成这一下降的最大因素是个人选择而不是政府政策。而个人选择可能更难逆转。

Discretionary spending by Chinese consumers—the sort that goes on things economists do not see as essentials—is 40% off its level a year ago. Haidilao, a hotpot chain, is seeing a bit more than three parties per table per day—an improvement, but still lower than the 4.8 registered last year, according to a report by Goldman Sachs published in mid-April. Breweries are selling 40% less beer. STR, a data-analytics firm, finds that just one-third of hotel beds in China were occupied during the week ending April 19th. Flights remain far from full (see chart 2).

中国消费者的可自由支配支出(即经济学家视为非必需品的那部分消费支出)比一年前下降了40%。高盛4月中旬发布的一份报告显示,火锅连锁店海底捞日均翻台三次多一点,虽然有好转,但仍低于去年的4.8次。啤酒厂的啤酒销量减少了40%。数据分析公司STR发现,在截至4月19日的一周里,中国酒店的入住率只有三成。航班上座率也很低(见图表2)。

经济学人双语版-不太一样 Not quite all there

This less social world is not necessarily bad news for every company. UBS, a bank, reports that a growing number of people in China say that the virus has increased their desire to buy a car—presumably in order to avoid the risk of infection on public transport. The number of passengers on Chinese underground trains is still about a third below last year’s level; surface traffic congestion is as bad now as it was then.

社交活动减少不一定对每家公司都是坏消息。根据瑞银(UBS)的报告,越来越多的中国人表示疫情提升了他们购车的欲望,这大概是为了避免公共交通上的感染风险。中国地铁的乘客人数仍比去年少约三分之一。地面交通拥堵和去年一样严重。

Wanting a car, though, will not mean being able to afford one. Drops in discretionary spending are not entirely driven by a residual desire for isolation. They also reflect the fact that some people have a lot less money in the post-lockdown world. Not all those who have lost jobs will quickly find new ones, not least because there is little demand for labour-intensive services such as leisure and hospitality. Even those in jobs will not feel secure, the Chinese experience suggests. Since late March the share of people worried about salary cuts has risen slightly, to 44%, making it their biggest concern for 2020, according to Morgan Stanley, a bank. Many are now recouping the loss of income that they suffered during the most acute phase of the crisis, or paying down debt. All this points to high saving rates in the future, reinforcing low consumption.

但是,想买车不一定就买得起。可自由支配支出下降并非完全缘于残留的安全隔离心理。它还反映出一个事实:封城结束后,部分人口袋里的钱少了很多。并非所有失业的人都能很快找到新工作,尤其是因为对休闲接待业之类的劳动密集型服务业的需求很小。中国的情况表明,即使有工作的人也没有安全感。摩根士丹利称,自3月下旬以来,担心降薪的人占比略有上升,达到44%,降薪成了2020年人们最大的担忧。现在,许多人正在弥补疫情最严重时期的收入损失或在偿还债务。所有这些都表明未来的储蓄率会很高,这将进一步强化低消费趋势。

A 90% economy is, on one level, an astonishing achievement. Had the pandemic struck even two decades ago, only a tiny minority of people would have been able to work or satisfy their needs. Watching a performance of Beethoven on a computer, or eating a meal from a favourite restaurant at home, is not the same as the real thing—but it is not bad. The lifting of the most stringent lockdowns will also provide respite, both emotionally and physically, since the mere experience of being told what you can and cannot do is unpleasant. Yet in three main ways a 90% economy is a big step down from what came before the pandemic. It will be more fragile; it will be less innovative; and it will be more unfair.

某种程度上,能保持“九成经济”已经是一个惊人的成就。这次疫情哪怕只提前20年爆发,也将只有极少数人能够保住工作或满足生活需求。在电脑上看人演奏贝多芬作品或在家里吃最喜欢的餐馆的外卖无法比拟现场体验,但也还不赖。解除最严格的封城措施也会让人身心都松一口气,因为能做什么和不能做什么都要听指挥的感觉让人很不愉快。然而,与疫情之前的经济状况相比,“九成经济”将在三大方面大幅倒退:它更脆弱,更缺乏创新,更不公平。

Take fragility first. The return to a semblance of normality could be fleeting. Areas which had apparently controlled the spread of the virus, including Singapore and northern Japan, have imposed or reimposed tough restrictions in response to a rise in the growth rate of new infections. If countries which retain relatively tough social-distancing rules do better at staving off a viral comeback, other countries may feel a need to follow them. With rules in flux, it will feel hard to plan weeks ahead, let alone months.

先来看脆弱性。表面上的恢复正常可能是短暂的。在那些似乎已经控制了病毒传播的地区,包括新加坡和日本北部,为应对新增感染病例加速上升已经实施或再度实施了严格的限制。如果保留了相对严格的社交隔离规定的国家在防止疫情复发方面做得更好,那么其他国家可能就会觉得有必要效仿。规定在不断变化,要为未来几周制定计划都很难,更不用说几个月了。

Can’t start a fire

红火不起来

The behaviour of the economy will be far less predictable. No one really knows for how long firms facing zero revenues, or households who are working reduced hours or not at all, will be able to survive financially. Businesses can keep going temporarily, either by burning cash or by tapping grants and credit lines set up by government—but these are unlimited neither in size nor duration. What is more, a merely illiquid firm can quickly become a truly insolvent one as its earnings stagnate while its debt commitments expand. A rise in corporate and personal bankruptcies, long after the apparently acute phase of the pandemic, seems likely, though governments are trying to forestall them. In the past fortnight bankruptcies in China started to rise relative to last year. On April 28th HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, reported worse-than-expected results, in part because of higher credit losses.

相比过去,未来的经济运行状况将难以预测得多。没人确切知道,面临零收入的企业或者工作时间减少或根本没有工作的家庭在财力上能够坚持多久。企业可以通过消耗现金或申请政府的补贴和贷款来暂时维持运营,但这些在规模和期限上都不是无限的。而且,随着债务越来越多而收入没有起色,一家本来只是流动性差的公司可能很快就会真的陷入破产境地。在疫情看似最严重的阶段过去很久之后,公司和个人破产数量似乎很有可能上升,尽管政府正在努力先发制人。过去两周,中国的破产数量较去年同期开始增加。4月28日,全球最大银行之一的汇丰银行公布的业绩逊于预期,部分原因是信贷损失增加。

Furthermore, the pandemic has upended norms and conventions about how economic agents behave. In Britain the share of commercial tenants who paid their rent on time fell from 90% to 60% in the first quarter of this year. A growing number of American renters are no longer paying their landlords. Other creditors are being put off, too. In America, close to 40% of business-to-business payments from firms in the spectator-sports and film industries were late in March, double the rate a year ago. Enforcing contracts has become more difficult with many courts closed and social interactions at a standstill. This is perhaps the most insidious means by which weak sectors of the economy will infect otherwise moderately healthy ones.

此外,疫情还破坏了经济主体行为方式的规范和惯例。在英国,今年第一季度按时支付租金的商业租户比例从90%下降到60%。越来越多的美国租户不再向房东交租金。其他债权人也遇到了拖欠。3月,近40%的美国观赏性体育和电影业的公对公付款出现拖欠,比例是一年前的两倍。由于许多法院关闭,社交互动停滞,执行合同变得更加困难。经济中的薄弱部门也许会以这种最隐匿的方式感染原本较健康的部门。

In an environment of uncertain property rights and unknowable income streams, potential investment projects are not just risky—they are impossible to price. A recent paper by Scott Baker of Northwestern University and colleagues suggests that economic uncertainty is at an all-time high. That may go some way to explaining the results of a weekly survey from Moody’s Analytics, a research firm, which finds that businesses’ investment intentions are substantially lower even than during the financial crisis of 2007-09. An index which measures American nonresidential construction activity 9-12 months ahead has also hit new lows.

在产权不确定和收入流不明的环境中,潜在的投资项目不仅有风险,而且无法定价。西北大学的斯科特·贝克(Scott Baker)及其同事最近发表的一篇论文称,经济不确定性正处于历史最高水平。这也许能在一定程度上解释研究公司穆迪分析(Moody’s Analytics)一项每周调查的结果。该调查发现企业的投资意向明显低于2007至2009年金融危机期间。一个衡量未来9至12个月美国非住宅建筑活动的指数也创下新低。

The collapse in investment points to the second trait of the 90% economy: that it will be less innovative. The development of liberal capitalism over the past three centuries went hand in hand with a growth in the number of people exchanging ideas in public or quasi-public spaces. Access to the coffeehouse, the salon or the street protest was always a partial process, favouring some people over others. But a vibrant public sphere fosters creativity.

投资的大幅减少指向了“九成经济”的第二个特点:创新减弱。在过去的三个世纪里,在公共或准公共场所交换思想的人不断增加,这与自由资本主义的发展紧密相关。能进入咖啡馆、沙龙或参与街头抗议活动的从来只是一部分人,其他人可能无缘参与。但充满活力的公共领域可以促进创造力。

Innovation is not impossible in a world with less social contact. There is more than one company founded in a garage now worth $1trn. During lockdowns, companies have had to innovate quickly—just look at how many firms have turned their hand to making ventilators, if with mixed success. A handful of firms claim that working from home is so productive that their offices will stay closed for good.

在社交减少的世界里创新也不是不可能。在车库里成立而市值达到一万亿美元的公司不止一家。在封城期间,公司不得不快速创新,只要看看有多少公司转型生产呼吸机就知道了(尽管成败不一)。少数公司声称远程办公效率很高,以后干脆都不需要办公室了。

Yet these productivity bonuses look likely to be heavily outweighed by drawbacks. Studies suggest the benefits of working from home only materialise if employees can frequently check in at an office in order to solve problems. Planning new projects is especially difficult. Anyone who has tried to bounce ideas around on Zoom or Skype knows that spontaneity is hard. People are often using bad equipment with poor connections. Nick Bloom of Stanford University, one of the few economists to have studied working from home closely, reckons that there will be a sharp decline in patent applications in 2021.

然而,这些提升生产率的好处看起来远远敌不过隔绝的坏处。研究表明,只有员工可以经常性地回到办公室解决问题时,居家办公的好处才能实现。规划新项目尤其困难。任何试过在Zoom或Skype上集思广益的人都知道,要激发即兴灵感绝非易事。人们经常是在不怎么好的网络上使用不怎么好的设备。斯坦福大学的尼克·布鲁姆(Nick Bloom)是为数不多的深入研究居家办公的经济学家之一,他认为2021年专利申请量将急剧下降。

经济学人双语版-不太一样 Not quite all there

Cities have proven particularly fertile ground for innovations which drive long-run growth. If Geoffrey West, a physicist who studies complex systems, is right to suggest that doubling a city’s population leads to all concerned becoming on aggregate 15% richer, then the emptying-out of urban areas is bad news. MoveBuddha, a relocation website, says that searches for places in New York City’s suburbs are up almost 250% compared with this time last year. A paper from New York University suggests that richer, and thus presumably more educated, New Yorkers—people from whom a disproportionate share of ideas may flow—are particularly likely to have left during the epidemic.

创新能推动长期增长,而城市已被证明是创新的沃土。研究复杂系统的物理学家杰弗里·韦斯特(Geoffrey West)认为,城市人口增加一倍,所有相关人群的总财富会增加15%。如果他是对的,那么撤离城市就是个坏消息。搬迁网站MoveBuddha表示,与去年同期相比,纽约市郊区住宅的搜索量增长了近250%。纽约大学的一篇论文表明,更富有(因此也应该是受过更高教育)的纽约人在疫情期间尤其有可能搬离纽约市,而这一人群可能是创新思想的最大源头。

Something happening somewhere

热闹在别处

Wherever or however people end up working, the experience of living in a pandemic is not conducive to creative thought. How many people entered lockdown with a determination to immerse themselves in Proust or George Eliot, only to find themselves slumped in front of “Tiger King”? When mental capacity is taken up by worries about whether or not to touch that door handle or whether or not to believe the results of the latest study on the virus, focusing is difficult. Women are more likely to take care of home-schooling and entertainment of bored children, meaning their careers suffer more than men’s. Already, research by Tatyana Deryugina, Olga Shurchkov and Jenna Stearns, three economists, finds that the productivity of female economists, as measured by production of research papers, has fallen relative to male ones since the pandemic began.

无论人们最终困在何地以何种方式工作,疫情期间的生活体验都不利于创造性思维。有多少人刚开始居家隔离时决心让自己沉浸到普鲁斯特或乔治·艾略特的作品中,到头来却是整天瘫坐着看《养虎为患》(Tiger King)?如果大脑常常都在顾虑能不能碰门把手,或该不该相信关于病毒的最新研究结果,那就很难集中注意力。女性更有可能担负起辅导孩子在家学习以及陪他们解闷的责任,这意味着她们的事业受到的影响比男性更多。经济学家塔季扬娜·德雷乌吉纳(Tatyana Deryugina)、奥尔加·舍契诃夫(Olga Shurchkov)和珍娜·斯登(Jenna Stearns)的研究已发现,若以研究论文篇数来衡量,自疫情开始以来,女性经济学家的生产率较她们的男性同僚已有所下降。

The growing gender divide in productivity points to the final big problem with the 90% economy: that it is unfair. Liberally regulated economies operating at full capacity tend to have unemployment rates of 4-5%, in part because there will always be people temporarily unemployed as they move from one job to another. The new normal will have higher joblessness. This is not just because GDP will be lower; the decline in output will be particularly concentrated in labour-intensive industries such as leisure and hospitality, reducing employment disproportionately. America’s current unemployment rate, real-time data suggest, is between 15-20%.

生产率性别差距的扩大指向了“九成经济”的最后一个大问题:不公平。自发调节的经济体满负荷运转时失业率往往为4%至5%,一定程度上是因为总有一些人在转换工作期间处于暂时失业状态。新常态下失业率将更高。这不仅因为GDP会降低,还因为产出降低将尤其集中在休闲接待业等劳动密集型行业,从而导致更多失业。实时数据显示,美国目前的失业率在15%至20%之间。

The lost jobs tended to pay badly, and were more likely to be performed by the young, women and immigrants. Research by Abi Adams-Prassl of Oxford University and colleagues finds that an American who normally earns less than $20,000 a year is twice as likely to have lost their job due to the pandemic as one earning $80,000-plus. Many of those unlucky people do not have the skills, nor the technology, that would enable them to work from home or to retrain for other jobs.

流失的工作往往薪酬低,而且更有可能由年轻人、妇女和移民从事。牛津大学的阿比·亚当斯-普拉斯尔(Abi Adams-Prassl)及其同事的研究发现,与年收入超过八万美元的美国人相比,年收入通常低于两万美元的美国人因疫情失业的可能性要高出一倍。许多不幸失业的人既没有技能,也没有技术设备,无法在家工作或为找新工作开展再培训。

The longer the 90% economy endures, the more such inequalities will deepen. People who already enjoy strong professional networks—largely, those of middle age and higher—may actually quite enjoy the experience of working from home. Notwithstanding the problems of bad internet and irritating children, it may be quite pleasant to chair fewer meetings or performance reviews. Junior folk, even if they make it into an office, will miss out on the expertise and guidance of their seniors. Others with poor professional networks, such as the young or recently arrived immigrants, may find it difficult or impossible to strengthen them, hindering upward mobility, points out Tyler Cowen of George Mason University.

“九成经济”持续越久,这类不平等越会加剧。已经拥有强大职场人脉的人们(大部分是中年或老年人)实际上可能会很享受居家工作。尽管存在网络不畅和神兽之扰,但能少主持点会议或少做几次绩效考核可能还是挺令人愉快的。初级员工即使能回办公室上班,也会错过向前辈学习专业知识和接受指导的机会。乔治梅森大学(George Mason University)的泰勒·科恩(Tyler Cowen)指出,年轻人或新移民等职业人脉较薄弱的人可能很难甚至无法提升这种人际网络,从而阻碍向上流动。

The world economy that went into retreat in March as covid-19 threatened lives was one that looked sound and strong. And the biomedical community is currently working overtime to produce a vaccine that will allow the world to be restored to its full capacity. But estimates suggest that this will take at least another 12 months—and, as with the prospects of the global economy, that figure is highly uncertain. If the adage that it takes two months to form a habit holds, the economy that re-emerges will be fundamentally different. ■

在疫情威胁生命的影响下,曾经看起来强劲而稳健的世界经济在3月陷入衰退。生物医学界目前正在加班加点地研发疫苗,以求让世界恢复全负荷运转的状态。但据估计这至少还需要12个月的时间——而且和全球经济的前景一样,这个数字也高度不确定。如果养成一个习惯需要两个月的说法属实,那么疫情过后的经济面貌将会根本不同。

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