How does economics work on a shrinking population in Japan?

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Bank of Japan may cut its growth forecast for this fiscal year to see the result of GDP growth in Q2 after an increase of consumption tax in Japan, according to Bloomberg on 15 Aug 2014.   Is it too early to increase taxes? Or is it inevitable to decrease the fiscal deficit?  Let me consider a little bit here because this is very important not only for Japanese people, but also other aging societies which follow Japan.

 

Fundamental problem in Japan, I think, is shrinking populations. The population of Japan is decreasing at a rapid pace.  More than 200,000 populations are lost in Japan every year. It must be very sad that if we can see a 200,000-living city is disappearing from our sight every year.  Although it is almost impossible to see what happens in the population every day,  I am sure it is not good for economic growth, investment strategy. The richer countries are, the more population they can sustain in them.  Therefore, economics implicitly assume populations in countries are not decreasing at least unless there are disasters or epidemic. Unfortunately, it is not the case in Japan.  The population has been shrinking even though it is the third biggest economy in the world.

 

Aggregate demand

Shrinking population has a negative impact against aggregate demand as fewer people buy goods and services. Therefore tax increase may discourage consumer confidence more than in a normal economy in which populations are increasing. In addition to that older people consume fewer goods and services than younger people do.  There will be no need for new shopping malls, convenience stores, gasoline stands, schools and kindergartens anymore in such situations. Even thought we would need new hospitals to take care older people and funeral ceremony services when they pass away,  I do not think these services can compensate lost demands due to shrinking populations.

 

Export

How about exports to grow GDP?  When JPY is weakening, exports used to be picked up.  The current situation,  however, a little different.  Since the big earthquake hit Japan in March 2011,  trend of trade balance has been negative, even though JPY has been weakening.  One of the reasons is the importing energy to replace nuclear power plants.  Another is that Japanese consumer goods are less competitive than they were in 2000s.  So Japan cannot rely on exports to offset shrinking domestic demand.  What should we do? 

 

Human capital

One way to revive the Japanese economy is that bringing up high profit and productive industries.  The key is human capital in Japan to achieve that. When we focus on how older people should be cared after their retirement, however, people tend to forget how we should bring up younger people , who are the next generation of workforces. This is a kind of problem about optimization of our society.  How we should allocate our resources between older people and younger people.  Which should come first, schools or hospitals?  In terms of education in Japan,  I am not so confident to say that the Japanese education system enables its children to compete global competition to obtain skilled jobs. English, math and programming will be critical to raise employability in the future, however, it seems there is no change in the Japanese educational system to teach them effectively.  In the long run, I am afraid Japan can not raise productivity because its workforce lack fundamental skills.

 

Immigration

People who have never been to Japan, may not understand why Japan does not have immigrations from overseas to compensate shrinking populations.  In my view, Japan is not ready to have immigrations from overseas as it is culturally homogeneous.  People share the same language and the same experience.  It enables them to do “non-verbal communication” which is difficult to understand from the standpoint of foreign people. This is an obstacle to live with foreigners.  It takes longer time for Japan to accept immigrations as few people has experience of “living with foreigners”.

 

 

I must say there is no easy way out of this difficult situation.  Although tax increase from 8% to 10% is needed to decrease the fiscal deficit of Japan, it is very difficult to keep the best timing for the Japanese government to introduce it.  Japan has only limited time to make its fiscal balance to be sustainable.

NASDAQ Global Index Family now available to everyone for free !

Quandl

Is this also a game changer ? I think it is!  Quandl, which is a data gathering platform, announced that indexes data from NASDAQ OMX are provided and users can download and use them for data analysis without paying any fees.  These indexes are called ” The Global Index Family “. According to the website of Quandl, “The Global Index Family is comprehensive: it covers international securities segmented by geography, sector, and size. NASDAQ OMX’s transparent and rules-based selection method results in a complete representation of the global investable equity marketplace. The indexes cover 45 individual countries within Developed and Emerging Markets, and facilitate a multitude of tracking, trading, and investing opportunities.” This is amazing. When I worked in investment banks before,  each division of the banks has Bloomberg terminals.  However, I could not have it by myself because it was too expensive to me. Now 40,000 indexes are available for me through Quadl.   Then what can we do with it?

 

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The Global Index Family is comprehensive. So once I am familiar with that,  it is easy to handle the data around the globe. In addition to that,  combination between these indexes and other economic data enable me to produce new research and analysis with different angles, which has been impossible for me before these indexes are available. It must be exciting!  It should be noted that all indexes in Quandl can be downloaded directly into the major data analysis tools such as  Python, R  and MATLAB, etc. For example, if you want to download data of Nikkei 225 into R,  You just type command like ” Quandl(“NIKKEI/INDEX”, trim_start=”1955-01-17″, trim_end=”2015-06-21″, collapse=”monthly”) “.  Then data you want are downloaded into your R . It is simple and easy to obtain data in order to analyze it in statistical tools.  Why don’t you start data analysis with Quandl ?