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美国公司就促进就业接连“报喜”

提高就业没有任何坏处,但反复炒作无益于经济发展,要知道,就业只是经济增长的副产品,而不是最终产品。

企业负责人及其公关顾问像过节似的轮番在就业问题上报喜,但谁又能责怪他们呢?新任美国总统曾逐个数落过那些把工作机会转移到或者留住国外的公司。问问福特的马克·菲尔兹、通用汽车的玛丽•巴拉、联合技术的格雷格•海耶斯、丰田的丰田章男、莱克斯诺的托德·艾伦·亚当斯或者宝马的罗兰·克鲁格那是什么感觉。因此,当一家公司要在美国创造工作机会或者把就业机会留在美国时,它自然要高声宣布这样的新闻,大家可别去想这种“新闻”体现的是不是早在特朗普当选之前就有的计划或情况。

亚马逊CEO杰夫·贝佐斯上周三宣布,今后18个月将在美国创造超过10万个全职工作机会,其中许多都来自于该公司筹备了好几个月的仓库。同一天,塔可贝尔CEO布莱恩·尼科尔表示,该公司正在实施五年里为美国创造10万个工作机会的计划——这可不是新的增长目标,只是采用了新的说法。软银创始人孙正义在去年12月拜会了特朗普,并且宣布将在美国创造5万个就业机会,期限未定——这些就业机会的来源是此前的一项计划,内容是在几年时间里向美国公司投资500亿美元。

特朗普自己也加入了这场公共盛宴,他的发言人表示“当选总统很高兴能在亚马逊的此项决定中发挥作用”。显然,他的作用就是在上个月告诉科技公司大佬们把就业机会留在美国。

这些举措没有任何坏处,但有一点,反复炒作这个话题可能会让大家认为经济的目的就是促进就业。显然不是。虽然这听起来冷酷无情,但就业只是经济增长的副产品,而不是最终产品。而且具有讽刺意义的是,记住这个现实对于提高就业水平来说至关重要。想知道原因的话,就看看20世纪90年代的印度吧。

当时,印度政府和社会上很大一部分人都相信,大公司存在的目的就是提供就业机会。塔塔钢铁就是这些大公司之一。和所有的印度大型企业一样,它在重重监管之下承诺全面实行就业终身制,25年后,它又保证给员工的子女提供终身就业机会。在那种环境下,高效是坏事,低效才是好事。在塔塔钢铁,仅会计部门就聘请了32名司机、保安和日工。许多人都有工作,但工资不高。怎么会高呢?当时塔塔钢铁的生产率比美国钢铁企业低90%。

1991年印度陷入经济危机,政府被迫放松了对经济的监管。许多人失业(尽管塔塔钢铁怀着额外的同情心实施了裁员)。此时,高效成了好事,印度经济开始有了起色。创造就业机会不再是目标。但由于经济增速有了如此巨大的提升,数以亿计的印度人都找到了更好的工作,而且提高了生活质量。

企业领导人对此当然心知肚明。希望在宣布推动美国就业增长时,他们不要说这就是他们存在的目的。不以创造就业机会为重心,他们就会创造出更多、更好的就业机会,现实就是这么矛盾。(财富中文网)

作者:Geoff Colvin、Ryan Derousseau

译者:Charlie

Business leaders and their p.r. advisers are holding a festival of spin on the subject of jobs, and who can blame them? The president is excoriating companies by name for moving or keeping jobs outside the U.S.; ask Ford’s Mark Fields, GM’s Mary Barra, United Technologies’ Greg Hayes, Toyota’s Akio Toyoda, Rexnord’s Todd Alan Adams, or BMW’s Harald Krüger how that feels. So when a company is going to create or keep jobs in the U.S., it’s naturally going to shout that news, and never mind if the “news” reflects plans or circumstances from long before Trump’s election.

Thus Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced yesterday that he’ll create more than 100,000 full-time U.S. jobs in the next 18 months; many of them are at warehouses that have been in the works for months. Also yesterday, Taco Bell CEO Brian Nicoll said his business was on track to create 100,000 U.S. jobs in the next five years; that isn’t a new growth projection, just a new way to talk about it. Softbank founder Masayoshi Son met with Trump in December and announced he would create 50,000 U.S. jobs over an indeterminate time; the jobs would result from a previously planned investment of $50 billion in U.S. businesses over several years.

Trump himself joined in the p.r. fiesta, with a spokesman announcing that “The President-elect was pleased to have played a role in that decision by Amazon.” His role apparently consisted of telling technology executives last month to keep jobs in the U.S.

There’s no harm in any of this, except in one way: Repetition of the theme could lead to a widely accepted view that the economy’s purpose is to create jobs. It isn’t. That sounds heartless, but jobs are a byproduct of economic growth, not the end product, and remembering that reality is, ironically, crucial to more people having better jobs. To see why, consider a story from India in the 1990s.

Back then, the Indian government and much of the society believed that big companies existed to provide employment. Tata Steel was one of those companies. Heavily regulated, like all big companies, it promised lifetime employment to every worker, and after 25 years a worker’s son or daughter was also guaranteed a lifetime job. In that world, efficiency was bad; inefficiency was good. The accounting department alone employed 32 chauffeurs, security people, and “peons.” Lots of people had jobs, but they didn’t pay well. How could they, when Tata Steel was 90% less productive than a U.S. steelmaker?

Then in 1991 India suffered an economic crisis and was forced to deregulate its economy. Many people lost jobs (though Tata Steel handled its downsizing with extraordinary compassion). Now efficiency was good, and India’s economic takeoff began. Creating jobs was no longer the objective, but because the economy grew so much faster, hundreds of millions of Indians now hold better jobs and live better lives than before.

Business leaders understand all this, of course. Let’s hope that, in proclaiming their growing U.S. employment, they can avoid suggesting it’s the reason for their existence. The paradoxical reality is that they’ll create more and better jobs by not focusing on creating jobs.

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