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2015/04/10 第67期 訂閱/退訂看歷史報份
紐時周報精選 In Japan, Saving Is Out of Style/在日本 儲蓄已經退流行
Kodak Struggles to Envision a Viable Future After Film/後軟片時代 柯達拚未來
In Japan, Saving Is Out of Style/在日本 儲蓄已經退流行
By Jonathan Soble
TOKYO – Takazumi Fukuoka should be exactly what Japan needs to get its economy moving again. An art director at a small online media company, he has a free-spending social life, and as a part-time D.J., he often buys records in the music shops of Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district. He eats and drinks out regularly, too.


But his salary has barely budged in recent years. So he is spending every yen he earns.


“I’m not saving,” said Mr. Fukuoka, 30. “There are people my age who are married with kids and have their own houses, but I don’t have any of that.”


It is an increasingly common refrain in Japan – and one that complicates efforts to revitalize the country’s economy.


The country’s savings rate, long one of the highest, is now below zero. By comparison, the savings rate in Germany is forecast to be near 10 percent this year.


For decades, many Japanese hoarded cash, especially after World War II, when protections like unemployment insurance and public pensions were scarce.


New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to inject life into the lackluster economy, in part by getting people to spend more.


Yet stagnant wages mean many cannot do so without shortchanging their futures. Japan’s large aging population – a quarter of the population is now over 65 – is already spending saving, and younger people aren’t filling the void.


About 40 percent of unmarried adults do not save, nor do 30 percent of families, according to the Central Council for Financial Services Information, a research group A decade ago, the ratio for both groups was about 10 percentage points lower.


Japan’s drop in savings has coincided with an erosion in pay and job security for many workers, especially younger ones.


Recently announced pay increases at Toyota, Panasonic and others apply to unionized, full-time employees. Many who don’t belong to that group aren’t spending more; they just have less to set aside. Now, there are growing fears about the ability of an overburdened pension system to support them in retirement.


Mitsuaki Yokoyama, who writes best-selling books on how to save money, promises to help readers with low incomes stabilize their finances. In the past, his audience was people in their 50s and 60s.


“Now there are more young people,” he said. “Their salaries aren’t going up and they don’t know what to do.”


Wages have been stuck at the levels of two decades ago.


“Between my wife and I, we have two incomes, so I feel like we should be able to save more,” said Kozo Shimoda, 37, who manages the online shopping site of an apparel company. “But our savings isn’t increasing, so I don’t feel satisfied or secure.”


The national household savings rate slipped to minus 1.3 percent in the last fiscal year, according to the government. The situation adds an extra layer of complexity to the task facing Mr. Abe.


Japan isn’t about to run out of spare cash soon. About 1,400 trillion yen, or $11.5 trillion, of household financial assets remain tucked away. One goal of Mr. Abe’s economic program is to get this idle cash back into the hands of individuals in the form of wage increases or higher returns to investors.


But Mr. Abe’s aim is a delicate one, because the same pile of savings is supporting Japan’s huge government debt.


Naohiko Baba, the chief Japan economist at Goldman Sachs, worries what will happen if both households and companies stop saving. At the equivalent of two and a half years of economic output, Japan’s debt load is the heaviest in the world. Yet about 90 percent of the debt is held locally, meaning that Japan is, in effect, lending to itself.


Economists say that is one reason Japan has avoided the kind of bond market pressure that has sent less indebted countries like Greece into crisis.


Mr. Baba said Japan could run short of the savings it needs to fund the debt locally by about 2020. After that, it would need to turn to foreign investors – a potentially destabilizing shift.


“Once we have to rely on foreign investors to finance the debt,” he said, “that could be the beginning of a disaster for Japan.”



Kodak Struggles to Envision a Viable Future After Film/後軟片時代 柯達拚未來
By Quentin Hardy
Of the roughly 200 buildings that once stood on the 525-hectare campus of Eastman Kodak’s business park in Rochester, New York, 80 have been demolished and 59 others sold off. Terry Taber, 60, and a loyal Kodak employee of 34 years, still works in one of the remaining Kodak structures, rubble from demolition not far from its doors.


Mr. Taber oversees research and development at Kodak. Many people might be surprised to know that Kodak is still in business at all, much less employing someone in the hopeful-sounding enterprise of developing new technology ideas. But if the film company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2013, has any light in its future, Mr. Taber is likely to have something to do with it.


In basement labs, some of the 300 scientists and engineers who work for Mr. Taber are studying nanoparticle wonder inks, cheap sensors that can be embedded in packaging to indicate whether meats or medicines have spoiled, and touch screens that could make smartphones cheaper.


Much of this is old stuff, left over from the company’s glory days. But Mr. Taber’s boss hopes that somewhere in those projects there might be a nugget of gold.


“I’m mining the history of this company for its underlying technologies,” said Jeff Clarke, 53, who became Kodak’s chief executive last year. Mr. Clarke has no delusions that Kodak could bring those technologies to market on its own; it will need corporate partners to make actual products. “We’ll never be able to prosecute the value of our intellectual property with Kodak-branded sales,” he said in an office in the same tower where George Eastman once looked out on his global tech empire.


Kodak is to digging deep into a legacy of innovation in the photography business and seeing if its remaining talent in optics and chemistry can be turned into new money in other industries.


For Kodak, the advent of digital photography was ruinous. Today it has $2 billion in annual sales, compared with $19 billion in 1990 when consumer film was king. It now has 8,000 employees worldwide; it had 145,000 at its peak.


Since emerging from bankruptcy, the company has mostly served niche film markets – there are still a few directors who refuse to shoot digital. Much of its revenue comes from legacy businesses. For Kodak’s new chief executive, along with veterans like Mr. Taber, the key to survival is in its research legacy, thousands of patents and a coterie of scientists who are making new discoveries.


At the research lab, a laser prints a 256-count mesh of silver wires, thinner than a credit card, in one second. That technology could be the basis of a new kind of phone screen, cheaper and more useful than the touch screen. It is work that Mr. Taber and his veteran team are clearly proud of.


“People ask me why I’m still here,” he said. “It’s because I see the possibilities.”


If any future is coming for Kodak, it had better hurry up.


Mr. Clarke is impatient. He came to Kodak a year ago and says he was shocked that the company had done so little to capitalize on the work of its scientists. Kodak’s technology for packaging sensors, he noted, was developed years ago. No one had figured out what to do with it. “We missed enormous opportunities,” he said.


Kodak has a market capitalization of about $800 million. He noted that GoPro, a maker of cameras for extreme sports, is worth more than six times as much.


With $750 million in cash, a 2014 net loss of $114 million and possibly more losses this year, the company needs to find partners. Among his partners for future business is Bobst, a $1.3 billion Swiss company that makes machinery to manufacture cardboard boxes. Bobst is interested in using Kodak’s digital printing technology to personalize packaging, said Jean-Pascal Bobst, the chief executive. “It could be revolutionary for corrugated boxes.”


Kodak diversified into pharmaceuticals, paying $5.1 billion for Sterling Drug in 1988. Kodak’s researchers invented digital photography and put the technology in professional cameras in the 1990s. There were plans to move to digital consumer cameras, but the cash Kodak made on traditional photography made it complacent. By 2001, even before smartphone cameras, film sales started to fall by 20 to 30 percent every year. The 3.5 billion meters of film Kodak manufactured as late as 2007, enough to circle the earth about 88 times, has shrunk 96 percent.


At an October meeting of 80 employees, Mr. Clarke was asked when Kodak’s 20-plus years of layoffs would end. “My answer, of course, was ‘Never,’ ” he recalled. “No individual company can say that things aren’t going to change.”


In December, Mr. Clarke made good on his word, with more restructuring and layoffs.




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