The Squeezed Middle Class: An International View

被挤压的中产阶级:国际视野

2019/05/02 23:24
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对照中文英文原文
“中产阶级”是一种观念,它包括收入分配中超过一定范围的数字排名。

Being "middle-class" is a perception that includes more than a certain range of numerical rankings in the distribution of income. For example, it includes a sense that one's job is reasonably stable heading into the future, a sense that income from the job is sufficient to purchase the goods and services associated with middle-class social status, and a sense that this status is likely to be passed on to one's children.

“中产阶级”是一种观念,它包括收入分配中超过一定范围的数字排名。例如,它包括一个感觉,一个人的工作是相当稳定的进入未来,觉得这份工作收入足以购买商品和服务相关的中产阶级的社会地位,和这个状态可能会传递给孩子。

Concerns over the middle class aren't just a US issue: they are coming up in high income countries all around the world. The OECD has just published "Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class" (April 2019). To help focus the discussion of the size and stresses for the middle class, it defines "middle-class" as those with an income level between 75% and 200% of the median income. However, it also immediately notes that when people are surveyed about whether they perceive themselves as "middle-class," this definition captures their perceptions in only a rough way.

对中产阶级的担忧不只是美国的问题:它们正在世界各地的高收入国家出现。经合组织刚刚出版了《压力之下:被挤压的中产阶级》(2019年4月)。为了帮助集中讨论中产阶级的规模和压力,它将“中产阶级”定义为那些收入水平在中等收入的75%到200%之间的人。然而,它也立即指出,当人们被问及他们是否认为自己是“中产阶级”时,这个定义只能粗略地捕捉他们的看法。

For example, the vertical axis of the graph below shows the share of the population in a given country that has income between 75% and 200% of the median income. The horizontal axis shows the share of people in that country who refer to themselves as "middle class." A country on the diagonal line would be one where the number who refer to themselves as "middle-class" matches the income-based definition.

例如,下图的纵轴显示了在给定国家中,收入占中等收入的75%到200%的人口比例。横轴显示的是该国自称为“中产阶级”的人口比例。对角线上的国家将是一个自称“中产阶级”的人数与收入为基础的定义相符的国家。

Countries below the diagonal line are places where the share of those who say they are "middle-income is lower than the income-based definition. The US, for example,  has about 50% of its population in the income range from 75% to 200% of the median income, but about 60% of people say they are "middle class." In Canada, about 60% of the population also says they are "middle-class," but has about 60% of Canada's population in the middle-income range. Great Britain is an interesting case where almost 60% of the population has income in the middle-income range, but only a little more than 40% of the population says they are "middle class" in survey results.

对角线以下的国家是那些自称“中等收入”的人所占比例低于以收入为基础的定义的国家。例如,美国大约有50%的人口收入在中等收入的75%到200%之间,但是大约60%的人说他们是“中产阶级”。在加拿大,大约60%的人口也说他们是“中产阶级”,但加拿大大约60%的人口处于中等收入范围。英国是一个有趣的例子,近60%的人口收入在中等收入范围内,但只有略多于40%的人口在调查结果中称自己是“中产阶级”。

The rise in income inequality that has happened all around the world will tend to spread out the income distribution, and thus reduce the size of the middle class. But an intriguing pattern that emerges from the OECD analysis is that although the share of the population at the income level from 75% to 200% of the median varies a lot across countries (as shown in the figure above), it hasn't declined all that much over time. Their analysis across 17 high-income countries shows that 64% of the population had income from 75% to 200% of the median in the mid-1980s, and this has now fallwn to 61% of the total population--an overall decline of about 1% per decade.

全球范围内收入不平等的加剧,往往会分散收入分配,从而缩小中产阶级的规模。但经合组织分析得出的一个有趣的模式是,尽管收入水平从75%到200%的人口占中位数的比例在不同国家之间存在很大差异(如上图所示),但随着时间的推移,这一比例并没有下降太多。他们对17个高收入国家的分析显示,64%的人口的收入是上世纪80年代中期中位数的75%至200%,而现在这一比例已降至61%,每十年总体下降约1%。

But this shift in the share of population doesn't capture two more powerful trends: the share of total income received by those in this middle-income group and the prices paid for goods and services often associated with middle class status.

但人口比例的这一变化并没有抓住两个更强大的趋势:中等收入群体收入占总收入的比例,以及通常与中产阶级地位有关的商品和服务的价格。

On the issue of the distribution of income, the OECD writes (references omitted):

关于收入分配问题,经合发组织写道(参考文献略):

The upper-income class controls a considerably larger share of income than in the past. Between the mid-1980s and mid-2010s, its share of income increased by an average of 5 percentage points from 18% to 23%, while grew 1.5 percentage points as a share of the population (Figure 2.5, Panel B). Save in Ireland, Switzerland and France, upper-income shares of total income climbed in all countries with available data, particularly in Israel, Sweden and the United States. And, in most countries, they outstripped its expansion as a share of the population. In the United States, for example, while the upper-income class’s share of the population increased 3 percentage points from 11% to 14%, its share of all income climbed 9 percentage points – from 26% to 35%. This change in shares of income in the United States was described as a shift in the “center of gravity in the economy.” This figure makes the point by calculating that total income for the 61-64% of the population in the 75% to 200% of median income range was four times as much as total income for the upper-income group in the mid-1980s, but that has now fallen to three times as much. Markets pay attention to buying power, and the buying power of the middle class is relatively small.

高收入阶层控制的收入份额比过去大得多。在1980年代中期和2010年代中期,其股票的平均收入增加了5个百分比从18%提高到23%,虽然增长1.5的人口比例(图2.5,面板B)。保存在爱尔兰,瑞士和法国,高收入的股票总收入爬在所有可用数据的国家,尤其在以色列,瑞典和美国。而且,在大多数国家,他们在人口中所占的比例超过了人口的增长。例如,在美国,虽然高收入阶层在人口中所占的比例从11%增加了3个百分点,达到14%,但他们在所有收入中所占的比例却上升了9个百分点,从26%上升到35%。美国收入份额的变化被描述为“经济重心的转移”。“这图的点通过计算总收入在61 - 64%的人口平均收入75%到200%的范围是四倍高收入集团总收入在1980年代中期,但现在已经降至三倍。市场注重购买力,而中产阶级的购买力相对较小。

Another big shift is that the prices of certain goods typically viewed as part of a "middle-class" lifestyle have been rising faster than most prices. The black line HICP shows a measure of the overall level of inflation. The other lines show the rise in prices of education, health care, and housing. A number of the main consumption goods associated with "middle-class" status have become harder to afford.

另一个重大转变是,某些通常被视为“中产阶级”生活方式一部分的商品的价格上涨速度超过了大多数商品的价格。黑线HICP表示总体通胀水平。另一条线显示了教育、医疗和住房价格的上涨。许多与“中产阶级”身份相关的主要消费品变得越来越难以负担。

Underlying these changes is a shift in the distribution of jobs, with a decline in middle-skill jobs in  particular. The OECD writes:

这些变化的背后是工作分配的变化,尤其是中等技能工作的减少。经济合作与发展组织(OECD)写道:

Recent work by the OECD confirms that in most countries the share of jobs in middle-skill occupations has declined relative to high-skill and low-skill occupations  since the mid-1990s. The OECD also finds that occupational polarisation is closely associated with changes in the distribution of occupations within sectors, although de-industrialisation (the shift of employment from manufacturing to the services) also plays an important role. Furthermore, polarisation and de-industrialisation both appear strongly related to technological change. Evidence of an association between polarisation and globalisation is weaker, however. Job polarisation has resulted in a net shift of employment to high skill occupations in most OECD countries. On average across the 21 OECD countries for which data were available, middle-skill occupations have lost 8 percentage points in employment shares, while low skill occupations have lost about 2 percentage points and the high skill occupations have gained 10 percentage points. Indeed, there was a shift towards highly skilled employment in most countries, with the aggregate share of middle-skill jobs declining in 19 countries, rising only in Mexico and the Slovak Republic. The increase in high-skill jobs offset the decline – except in Greece, Hungary and the United States. In those countries, the greatest climbs came in low-skill occupations, which nevertheless lost labour market shares in a number of other countries, though only in Belgium did they fare worse than middle-skill occupations. Overall, the most common pattern is one of a decline in middle-skill jobs relative to both high and low skill occupations, with most gains made by high-skill jobs ...  Changes in the fortunes of the different skill groups may explain some of the social frustration that has been at the centre of the political debate in recent years. Jobs increasingly fail to yield the income status traditionally associated with their skill levels. In most countries, there are fewer prospects of high-skill workers being in the upper-income class, and of middle and low-skill workers in the middle-income class.

What does all of this imply about how to address concerns over the middle class? The direct concerns over the middle class involve a desire for a labor market where workers find it more straightforward to make a lasting connection with an employer, with health and pension benefits, and prospects for a career path. They involve a desire to be able to afford the consumption goods like housing, education, and health care, which in most countries are either directly run by the government or highly affected by regulation in most of these countries.

经合组织(OECD)最近的研究证实,自上世纪90年代中期以来,在大多数国家,中等技能职业的就业比例相对于高技能和低技能职业有所下降。经合组织还发现,职业分化与行业内职业分布的变化密切相关,尽管去工业化(就业从制造业转向服务业)也发挥了重要作用。此外,两极分化和去工业化似乎都与技术变革密切相关。然而,两极分化与全球化之间联系的证据却不那么充分。在大多数经合组织(OECD)国家,就业两极分化导致就业净转向高技能职业。在可获得数据的21个经合组织国家中,中等技能职业的就业率平均下降了8个百分点,而低技能职业的就业率下降了约2个百分点,高技能职业的就业率上升了10个百分点。事实上,大多数国家都在向高技能就业转变,19个国家的中等技能就业总份额在下降,只有墨西哥和斯洛伐克共和国上升。除了希腊、匈牙利和美国,高技能工作岗位的增加抵消了失业率的下降。在这些国家,增长最快的是低技能职业,尽管如此,在其他一些国家,低技能职业失去了劳动力市场份额,尽管只有比利时的情况比中等技能职业更糟。总的来说,最常见的模式是中等技能职位相对于高技能和低技能职位的减少,而高技能职位的增加最多。不同技能群体命运的变化,或许可以解释近年来一直处于政治辩论中心的一些社会挫折感。工作越来越不能带来传统上与技能水平相关的收入状况。在大多数国家,高技能工人属于高收入阶层的可能性更小,而中等和低技能工人属于中等收入阶层的可能性更小。

所有这些对于如何解决中产阶级的担忧意味着什么?对中产阶级的直接担忧包括,他们希望劳动力市场能让工人们更直接地与雇主建立持久的联系,获得健康和养老金福利,以及职业道路的前景。它们包括有能力负担住房、教育和医疗等消费品的愿望,而这些东西在大多数国家要么直接由政府管理,要么受到这些国家的监管规定的高度影响。

I'm not someone who is reflexively opposed to higher taxes for those with high incomes, but these kinds of concerns over the future of the middle-class are unlikely to be addressed in a sustainable and long-term way by proposals to tax the rich and subsidize the middle class. Laws that seek to command higher wages and benefits, or seek to command lower prices for certain goods, are not a long-term answer either. Actual answers involve thinking in a more detailed way about how labor markets function, and more specifically how they improve productivity while incorporating and training workers. There also needs to be more detailed thinking about the rules and practices that governments have set up around the production of housing, health care, and education, and how those rules might be sensibly reformed.

我不是那种本能地反对对高收入人群增税的人,但这些对中产阶级未来的担忧不太可能通过向富人征税和补贴中产阶级的提议得到可持续和长期的解决。寻求提高工资和福利,或寻求降低某些商品价格的法律,也不是一个长期的解决办法。实际的答案包括以更详细的方式思考劳动力市场如何运作,更具体地说,如何在吸收和培训工人的同时提高生产率。还需要对政府围绕住房、医疗和教育生产制定的规则和做法以及如何合理改革这些规则进行更详细的思考。

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