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经济学人:疫情后时代社会保障的绝处逢生(2)

来源:经济学人 编辑:Melody   可可英语APP下载 |  可可官方微信:ikekenet
  


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The social safety net in many rich countries was creaking before covid-19 struck. Modelled on the ideas of Otto von Bismarck and William Beveridge, it had often failed to cushion workers from globalisation and technological and social change. In 1999-2019 the number of Americans aged 25-54 outside the labour force grew by 25%, or 4.7m, over six times more than the number who received help from the main assistance programme for displaced workers. As health-care and pension costs soared in recent years, governments cut back support for working-age people. Between 2014 and 2018 Britain’s state-pension bill grew in real terms by 4bn pounds ($5.8bn), even as the rest of its welfare budget shrank by 16.5bn pounds. A dwindling share of middle-income jobs and the growth of the gig economy fuelled fears that labour markets were changing faster than flat-footed governments could.

许多富裕国家的社会保障系统在新冠病毒袭击之前就已经摇摇欲坠。以奥托·冯·俾斯麦和威廉·贝弗里奇的思想为范本而建立的社会保障系统常常无法保护工人免受全球化、技术和社会变革的影响。1999年至2019年,25岁到54岁的美国非劳动力人口增长了25%,即470万人,是从主要失业工人援助方案中获得援助的人数的六倍多。随着近年来医疗和养老金成本的飙升,政府削减了对适龄劳动人口的支持。2014年至2018年,英国的国家养老金账单实际增长了40亿英镑(合58亿美元),而其余福利预算却缩水了165亿英镑。中等收入工作岗位比例的下降和零工经济的增长,加剧了人们对劳动力市场的变化速度快于那些措手不及的政府的担忧。

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With the public and some economists cheering on, it is tempting for politicians to stoke the economy with more ad hoc spending, or put in place vast schemes such as UBI. Instead they need to take a measured, long-term view. The safety net must be affordable. Tight budgets, not milk and honey, will define the 2020s. The annual deficit of big advanced economies was 4% of their combined GDP even before the pandemic—and much ageing is still to come. Already bond yields are rising again. Social spending must flow quickly and automatically to those who need it—not, as in America, only during crises when a panicked government passes emergency legislation. And governments need to find mechanisms that cushion people more effectively against income shocks and joblessness without discouraging work or crushing economic dynamism.

在公众和一些经济学家的支持下,政客们蠢蠢欲动,想用更多的临时支出来刺激经济,或者制定诸如UBI这样的庞大计划。相反,他们需要采取慎重长远的观点。社会保障系统必须是可负担得起的。21世纪20年代是预算紧缩的年代,而非富饶的年代。甚至在疫情爆发之前,大型发达经济体的年度赤字就已经占其总GDP的4%,而且很多老龄化问题仍在继续。债券收益率已经再次上涨。社会支出必须迅速、自动地流向那些不需要的人,不要像美国一样,只有在危机时期,恐慌的政府才会通过紧急立法流动社会支出。政府需要找到机制,在不妨碍工作或破坏经济活力的情况下,更有效地保护人们免受收入冲击和失业。

The first step towards satisfying these goals is to use technology to make ancient bureaucracies more efficient. Postal cheques, 1980s mainframe computers and shoddy data need to be relegated to the past. In the pandemic many governments temporarily short-circuited their existing systems because they were too slow. In Estonia and Singapore digital-identification systems and a disdain for form-filling became an asset in the crisis. More countries need to copy them and also to ensure universal access to the internet and bank accounts. The call for efficient administration may sound like tinkering but one in five poor Americans eligible for wage top-ups fails to claim them. Nimbler digital-payment systems will reduce the need for costly universalism as a fail-safe, and allow better targeting and quicker response times. Digital systems also permit the emergency option of making temporary cash payments to all households.

实现这些目标的第一步,是利用技术提高古老过时的官僚机构的效率。邮政支票、20世纪80年代的大型计算机以及劣质数据都需要被抛到脑后。疫情期间,许多政府因现有系统的运行速度太慢而暂时停止使用。在爱沙尼亚和新加坡,数字识别系统和对填表的不屑成为危机中的一项资产。更多的国家需要复制这些系统,并确保互联网和银行账户的普及。对高效管理的呼吁听起来像是修补,但有五分之一有资格获得工资补发的美国穷人却没有申请到。更灵活的数字支付系统将减少对故障保护的昂贵普遍性需求,并允许更好的针对性和更快的反应时间。数字系统还允许向所有家庭提供支付临时现金的紧急选择。

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