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  • (pensive music) (coins clanging)

  • - [Peter] Whether you're buying a ticket

  • for the subway.

  • (speaking in foreign language)

  • - Stopping by McDonald's for lunch.

  • Or shopping for a computer,

  • the prices of these things don't change much in Japan

  • but in the US, they're going up,

  • and inflation hit a three-decade high in October.

  • Whereas in Japan, inflation is about zero,

  • and has been that way for nearly 30 years.

  • In fact, there have been periods

  • when prices were actually falling, deflation.

  • So we went shopping around Tokyo

  • to see how low prices that may seem great

  • for our wallets could actually be one sign

  • of a less dynamic and slow-growing economy.

  • (pensive music)

  • If you wanna buy electronics in Tokyo,

  • this is the place to be,

  • and coming to Akihabara

  • is also a good place to compare prices

  • with the US, and see how Japan is dealing

  • with inflationary pressure differently.

  • In the US, the price of computers jumped 8%

  • in the month of October compared to a year earlier,

  • whereas in Japan, prices of these Notebook computers

  • actually fell a little more than 1%.

  • And one of the reasons for that big difference is demand.

  • As the US has begin to recover, at least economically,

  • from the pandemic,

  • there's been an upsurge of demand,

  • the US has seen a lot of supply chain pressures,

  • including shortages of parts and materials,

  • like semiconductors that go into so many products,

  • including electronics.

  • And also, container ships have been blocked at ports,

  • such as Los Angeles and Long Beach.

  • So they're backed up, and that means a shortage,

  • and in some cases, it means retailers feel

  • that they can or must raise prices.

  • Japan faces many of the same supply chain problems

  • as the US does but in general,

  • it has not resulted in price increases in Japan.

  • One reason is that consumer demand in general

  • is not strong in Japan, and hasn't been.

  • And that's part of the inflation story

  • that Japan has never really experienced

  • what we see in the US right now.

  • But companies in the US found it hard

  • to meet that higher consumer demand

  • because they aren't able to find enough workers.

  • So that's driving them to boost salaries

  • to recruit workers

  • and the cost then is passed on as higher prices.

  • And you can see that happening on a menu at McDonald's.

  • (speaking in foreign language)

  • - Here in Tokyo, a Big Mac

  • was the equivalent of about $3.40.

  • In the US, they're actually raising prices at McDonald's,

  • and according to the company,

  • that's largely because of wage increases.

  • McDonald's said wages have gone up

  • at least 10% so far this year at US restaurants.

  • And a survey finds that companies

  • in the US are setting aside an average 3.9%

  • of total payroll for wage increases next year,

  • the most since 2008.

  • In Japan, we just haven't see that wage price cycle develop.

  • One reason that wages tend to rise more slowly

  • in Japan is because of a more rigid labor force.

  • People are staying at companies for a very long time

  • and they really don't have the flexibility

  • to switch jobs without great personal loss.

  • So companies are not really under pressure

  • to offer these people wage increases.

  • Because wages don't go up here,

  • people aren't willing to open up their wallets.

  • One survey by the Bank of Japan found

  • that about half of people think of price first

  • when making a purchase,

  • and they tend to reject any retailer

  • that raises prices.

  • Companies have found they're better off

  • keeping their prices level.

  • (coins clanging)

  • So for example, train ticket prices in Japan

  • haven't gone up that much for the last 30 years.

  • Whereas in the US, the minimum fare

  • on the New York Subway has more than doubled

  • over the same period.

  • (coins clanging)

  • Besides train tickets,

  • you see flat prices really all across the economy.

  • For example, Eon, which is one Japan's biggest retailers

  • putting signs in its stores saying prices frozen!

  • At least until the end of the year.

  • Prices that don't change very much

  • can be reflective of a society

  • that doesn't change very much.

  • And that could be a good thing or a bad thing,

  • depending on your perspective.

  • Japan is still a pretty vibrant place.

  • It's a stable society,

  • it has kept its unemployment rate low

  • but it tends to be accompanied

  • by other phenomena that are not so favorable,

  • such as static wages, such as an economy

  • that seems to lack some of the dynamism

  • of the US where you have a new company like Tesla

  • storming onto the scene

  • and seizing a big part of a market like cars.

  • You can see some of that recently

  • in growth figures.

  • Japan's GDP shrank at an annual pace of 3.6%

  • in the third quarter,

  • whereas in the US, the figure was 2.1% growth.

  • Low prices and prices that never go up

  • may sound like a good thing

  • but they can also reflect

  • larger economic problems in a country.

  • (pensive music)

(pensive music) (coins clanging)

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'Japanification’: As U.S. Inflation Surges, Here’s Why Japan’s Prices Have Held Steady | WSJ

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    moge0072008 發佈於 2022 年 01 月 03 日
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