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经济学人:美国的生产率增长还能持续多久?

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Business

商业
American business
美国公司
Hard times, lean firms
艰难时局磨练高效能企业
How much longer can America keep increasing productivity?
美国的生产率增长还能持续多久?
EVERYONE complains that corporate America is reluctant to hire additional workers.
企业不愿再增加雇佣量在美国引起民怨沸腾。
Far less attention has been paid to the flip side of the jobless recovery: the remarkable improvement in American productivity.
但很少有人关注减少失业率的有效途径:显著提升美国的劳动生产率水平。
How long can this continue? "I see no limit," says William Hickey, the boss of Sealed Air, a packaging-maker.
这种提升能持续多久?包装材料制造商宝廷的老总William Hickey 说:"依我看来可无限期提升。"
Is he right to be so optimistic?
他的这种乐观估计是对还是错?
American firms were slow to react to the downturn at the beginning of the century, and paid the price.
新世纪之初,美国企业在应对经济衰退时反应迟钝,并为此付出了代价。
They learned their lesson. When the economy slumped in 2008, they were much quicker to adjust.
它们吸取了教训,更快地适应了2008年的经济大萧条,且劳动生产率也没有如往常随经济衰退而下降。
There was little of the fall in labour productivity that normally accompanies a recession, and this was not just a one-off "batting average" effect (in which average productivity rises because the worst performers are fired).
这不只是一次性实现的"棒球击球率"效应(即平均分因得分最低的选手被淘汰而提升)。专家们认为这是一种依靠压榨产业工人在短时期内维持的经济增长模式。
Rather, it was a productivity boost that has continued in defiance of expert predictions that workers can only be squeezed so hard for a short while.
然而恰恰相反,这种增长是靠全力提升劳动生产率实现的。
After falling in the first half of the year, American labour productivity (output per hour) was 2.3% higher in the third quarter of 2011 than in the same period a year earlier. This was the fastest quarterly rise in 18 months.
经历了上半年的下降后,2011年第三季度美国的劳动生产率(每小时产量)同比增长了2.3%,这是18个月内最快的季度性增长。
Manufacturing productivity in that quarter rose by 2.9% compared with a year earlier.
该季度制造业生产率同比增长了2.9%。
America's productivity growth has been more robust than most other rich countries'—a feat many ascribe to its flexible labour market and a culture of enterprise.
美国的生产率比绝大多数发达国家增长得更为强劲——许多人将这一成就归功于美国灵活的劳动力市场机制和特有的企业文化。
Yet some analysts expect productivity growth to stall soon.
但有些分析师认为生产率不久将停止增长。
Hard-pressed workers are feeling grouchy: workforce surveys report record levels of job dissatisfaction.
重重压力令产业工人们牢骚不断:劳动力调查显示出对工作表示不满的人数创了纪录。
Many firms have been "starving the organisation to see how it can do with a lower cost structure," says Carsten Stendevad of Citigroup, a bank.
Citigroup银行的Carsten Stendevad说,很多公司正"忍饥挨饿",以 "测试自身在低成本状态下的生存能力"。
Unless the economy picks up, he predicts that productivity growth will slow in 2012. (He admits, however, that he wrongly predicted the same thing would happen in 2011.)
他预计,只要经济形势没有好转,2012年生产率增长就会放缓(但他也承认自己曾错误地对2011年的情况做过同样的判断)。
Two things could keep productivity rising.
有两个因素能使生产率持续增长。
First, workers are terrified of losing their jobs.
其一,工人们害怕失业,这使得鼓励他们加班或干其它的活变得更加容易。
This makes it easier to persuade them to put in extra hours or shoulder new tasks. Even in unionised firms, there have been reports of greater flexibility.
据媒体报道,即使企业里有工会,维权活动仍更具弹性。
Workers have been staying on the job longer rather than "featherbedding" their hours by, for example, queuing up early to clock off as soon as the shift ends.
工人们将更多的时间用于工作,而不是一到换班时间便早早排队下班等"浪费行为"。
Second, tough times are forcing firms to strain every brain cell to become more efficient.
其二,困难的时局正促使企业为提高效率而绷紧每一根神经。
Sealed Air, for example, has made numerous incremental tweaks, such as upgrading a machine that makes absorbent pads for supermarket meat trays so that its output increased from 400 units per hour three years ago to 550—with the same number of workers.
以希悦尔包装公司为例,该公司逐步做出了大量技术改进,如通过升级一款生产超市装肉托盘用吸水纸的机器,在工人数量相同的条件下,产量由三年前的每小时500件提升到550件。
The willingness of firms to invest in such enhancements has varied enormously. Some would rather hoard cash or buy back their own shares than spend it on more efficient machinery or information technology.
企业对这类技术改进的投资意愿各不相同(大相径庭)。有的企业宁愿积蓄资金或购买自己的股票也不愿投资于产能提升和信息技术领域。
Yet there are signs that leading industrial firms are starting to increase their capital spending, says Jeff Sprague of Vertical Research Partners, a research outfit.
而研究组织"纵向研究伙伴"的Jeff Sprague认为,主要工业企业已有增加投资的迹象,并尤其指出,企业正投资于"消除瓶颈"。
In particular, he has noticed firms investing in "debottlenecking" which, as its name suggests, means removing hold-ups in production processes, sometimes with an additional production line.
这一概念名称意味着清除生产过程中的障碍,有时还要为此增加生产线。
There are hefty gains to be made from using more automation, says Mr Hickey, adding that although he worries about diminishing returns, "we haven't hit the wall yet."
Hickey说,更广泛地使用自动化技术可获得更大规模的收益,并坦言自己虽然担心收益止升回落,"但我们还没有触及增幅上限。"
Service businesses, too, are wringing efficiency improvements from new technology.
服务业也正通过运用新技术努力提升效率。
Hertz allows customers to rent cars at automated kiosks, just as airlines have for some time allowed passengers to check in without talking to anyone.
Hertz汽车租赁公司如今可使顾客通过自动化租车亭实现汽车租赁,就像航空公司曾使旅客不用与任何人交谈便可办理登机手续一样。
Fast-food firms, such as McDonald's and Starbucks, are continuously innovating with their products and service.
快餐企业如麦当劳、星巴克等正坚持产品和服务创新。
In short, the recession has forced American firms to become more muscular.
总之,此轮经济衰退迫使美国企业变得更加强健。
This should help them thrive when the good times return. It should also give them an edge over foreign rivals.
这将有助于它们在经济复苏后蓬勃发展,并提高对外国竞争对手的优势。
But all such advantages are temporary.
但这所有的优点都是暂时的。
As Mr Hickey points out, a factory that Sealed Air opened in Mexico was expected to be far less productive than one in America, but within four years had caught up.
Hickey指出,宝廷在墨西哥的一家工厂的产能曾被认为会远远落后于其在美国的一家工厂,但四年之内,前者便追平了后者。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
productive [prə'dʌktiv]

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adj. 能生产的,有生产价值的,多产的

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muscular ['mʌskjulə]

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adj. 肌肉的,肌肉发达的

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efficient [i'fiʃənt]

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adj. 效率高的,胜任的

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boost [bu:st]

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vt. 推进,提高,增加
n. 推进,增加

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diminishing

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v. 减少;衰减;递减;削弱…的权势(diminish的

 
optimistic [.ɔpti'mistik]

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adj. 乐观的,乐观主义的

 
persuade [pə'sweid]

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vt. 说服,劝说

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check [tʃek]

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n. 检查,支票,账单,制止,阻止物,检验标准,方格图案

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cell [sel]

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n. 细胞,电池,小组,小房间,单人牢房,(蜂房的)巢室

 
reluctant [ri'lʌktənt]

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adj. 不情愿的,勉强的

 


关键字: 持续 增长 生产率 美国

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