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经济学人:英伦生活质量 被挤压成沙漏型的劳务市场需求

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Living standards

英伦生活质量
Squeezing the hourglass
被挤压成沙漏型的劳务市场需求
Growth is back. But for many Britons, it does not feel like it
经济回归呈增长趋势,但很多英国民众却并未感受到经济复苏的迹象。
MARK CARNEY is a man on a macroeconomic tightrope. On August 7th the new governor of the Bank of England promised that interest rates will stay low until the unemployment rate, now 7.8%, has fallen to 7.0% or lower. He gave himself two get out clauses: his pledge is off if inflation gets out of hand or if Britain's banks start to wobble. Mr Carney's announcement reflected the balancing act demanded of him: he must spur economic confidence without allowing inflation to erode wages and savings. The severity of the slump in British living standards shows just how tricky that task will be.
马克?卡尼(Mark Carney)正处于“宏观经济”这条钢丝绳上。这位新上任的英国银行行长承诺,将使利率维持在一个较低的水平,直至国内失业率由当前的7.8%降至7.0%甚至更低。他同时也为自己设立了两条“出局条款”:若通货膨胀难以掌控,或英国银行地位岌岌可危,他的承诺就并未兑现,那么他就会“出局”。 卡尼先生发布的条款也反映了公众对其在宏观经济之绳上平衡自如的期望:他必须在通货膨胀不会对公众的薪金和存款造成不利影响的情况下,带动英国经济重拾信心。然而英国民众生活水平急剧下降这一现象的严重性,则反映出卡尼先生肩上担子之重。

By some measures, the economy is moving from “rescue to recovery”—in the words of George Osborne, the Conservative chancellor of the exchequer. GDP grew by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2013 and house prices by almost 4% year-on-year. Yet the wallets of many, particularly those on lower and middle incomes, bear little evidence of it. Inflation is relatively modest, but wages lag far behind. A recent government-funded study found that 52% of Britons are struggling to keep up with the bills.

英国政府通过采取一系列手段,用保守党财政大臣乔治?奥斯本(George Osborne)的话来说,英国经济正在由“抢救阶段进入复苏阶段”。国民生产总值(GDP)在2013年第二季度上涨0.6%,而房价则在以每年4%的速度攀升。尽管该势头较难从众多民众,尤其是中低层收入群体的收入及消费水平中体现出来。通货膨胀的趋势虽然平缓,但薪金却严重滞后。最近,一项政府资助的研究项目发现,52%的英国民众正在苦苦维持收支平衡。
Even comfortable areas are pinched. In Solihull, a leafy suburb of Birmingham, unemployment is below average, but the cost-of-living crisis is acute. In 2010 only one client of its three Citizens Advice Bureaus (CAB) needed an emergency food parcel. Today they give out one every two days, some to people in work who run out of cash before payday. A record 16,000 people (nearly 8% of Solihull) passed through the charity's advice cubicles in 2012. Most frequently, they sought help with debt.
即使生活环境相对舒适的地区也感受到了压力。绿树成荫的索利赫尔位于伯明翰郊区,这里的失业率低于平均水平,但生活成本危机却相当严重。2010年,在当地三家公民咨询局(CAB)中只有一位客户索要了应急食品包,而如今一包应急食品包两天内就会被分发出去,其中一些是提供给那些青黄不接的工薪族。一项纪录表明,在2012年,16,000人(约占索利赫尔地区人数的8%)向慈善机构的咨询室寻求帮助并渡过难关,其中绝大多数是寻求债务帮助。
One such customer, David, used to make a decent living as a skilled tradesman, but is now unemployed. He is behind on once-affordable gas, water and rent bills. His CAB adviser reckons he will never again earn what he used to, so is helping him cut costs he once considered essential, like internet access and mobile phones, from his family's budget.
大卫就是上诉客户中的一员。他也曾是一位拥有体面工作且富有经验的商人,而现如今却处于失业状态,并且在曾一度可以支付得起的天然气费、水费和房租中苦苦挣扎。他在公民咨询局(CAB)的顾问推算出他的收入将不会再回到从前的水平,于是便帮助大卫从他的家庭预算中削减了诸如网费和话费等,那些曾经被认为是必要的开支。
A Spartan future awaits the 40% of working-age Britons who, like David, are falling behind. They are in the bottom half of the income scale but, unlike the poorest 10%, predominantly live off wages, not benefits. Their predicament dates to the early 2000s, when GDP and earnings peeled apart. Living costs have since left median wages far behind (see chart 1).
约有40%正处于工龄期的英国人像大卫一样,生活水平一落千丈,迎接他们的将是一个斯巴达式的未来——他们占收入群体底层人数的一半但又与最贫困潦倒的(占收入群体底层人数的10%),主要将收入花费在维持基本生活而没有其他补贴的人不同。他们的窘境可以追溯到21世纪初,当时国民生产总值(GDP)与公民收入不对等,公民生活费用已远远超出其中等收入水平。
The plate tectonics of the labour market offer the best explanation for this. With a declining industrial base, the British economy needs fewer mid-level skilled workers. Most new posts are low- or high-paying ones (see chart 2). Many in the middle lack the skills to move up and are pushed towards the low-wage end of the economy. Machinists and tradesmen become cashiers and call-centre workers.
通过研究英国劳务市场的组成可以很清晰的解释这一现象:工业基础弱化导致当前英国经济水平下,市场几乎不需要中等技术水平的从业者,且绝大多数工作岗位是提供给低薪或高薪要求的人。很多中等水平的从业者缺乏提升自身的技术而最终得到较低的报酬,像一些机械工程师和零售商,最终却变成了收银员和呼叫中心的工作人员。
Successive governments have bolstered the disposable incomes of the 40% with tax credits. According to the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank, in 1977 the state supplemented their wages by one percentage point of national income. By 2008-09 the top-up was 3.7 percentage points. This helped disguise the decline in the group's share of national original income from 30% to 22%.
历届政府都通过税收抵免政策提高了40%的公民可支配收入。通过“智囊团”——英国决议基金会(the Resolution Foundation)的商定,自1977年起,将国家收入的一个百分点补贴公民收入,直至2008至2009年,最高曾一度达到3.7个百分点。该行为很好地掩饰了公民收入从占国家原有收入的30%下降至22%的这一事实。
Today the government crows about the failings of past administrations while presiding over an intensification of the same problems. At current rates, real earnings will have shrunk by £6,660 ($10,250) over the 2010-15 parliament. The hourglass shape of the labour market has become more pronounced: research by the Trades Union Congress shows that four in five net jobs created up to December 2012 were in low-wage sectors. As before, the squeezed middle is turning to credit cards to compensate; in the first quarter of 2013 the savings ratio fell to 4.2%, its lowest since 2009.
如今英国政府一边在“哭诉”曾经管理层的失败,一边又在同样的问题上栽了更大的跟头。就目前利率来看,在2010至2015年议会期间,公民真实收入将缩减至6,660欧元(折合美元10,250元)。劳务市场需求沙漏化更加明显:英国总工会(Trades Union Congress)的一项研究表明,至2012年11月,由低工资部门提供的净就业机会占总数的五分之四,而那些被限制的中等水平求职者只好利用信用卡来支付各项费用。2013年第一季度英国储蓄率跌至4.2%,是自2009年以来的最低水平。
Solihull's economy is a microcosm of the national one. Job vacancies are up 2% on pre-recession levels, but mortgage and secured-loan arrears are 30% higher. The collapse of a local vanmaker, LDV, pushed many into low-quality service jobs. A noticeboard in a local CAB is crammed with advertisements for part-time or temporary work in supermarkets and cleaning agencies. “It's hard for someone used to a job as a production manager on £25,000 to find themselves stacking shelves on minimum wage,” says Kerry Turner, the local head of Citizens Advice.
索利赫尔的经济仅仅是英国国家经济的一个缩影。空缺的职位数比经济衰退前上涨了2%,但抵押款和抵押款拖欠却增加了30%。当地一家面包车制造厂(LDV)倒闭造成了许多人不得不选择低质量的服务行业。当地公民咨询局(CAB)的一块公告牌上贴满了超市和清洁公司招收兼职或临时工的广告,其领导人克里·特纳(Kerry Turner)表示,对于那些曾经挣着25,000欧元,比如生产部门经理来说,很难接受自己整理货架并且挣着最低工资的工作。
Desperate times, plastic measures
艰难时期的脆弱对策
Such struggling voters are electorally crucial, especially in the southern and Midlands seats that swing national results (in Solihull the Liberal Democrat MP has a majority of just 175). Politicians are right to call the nationwide polls scheduled for 2015 the “living-standards election”.
这些处于困境的选民是选举的关键点,尤其是南方和内陆的席位更是会影响全国的选举结果(在索利赫尔,自由派民主党人议员拥有绝大多数的选票,但总人数也仅有175人)。政客们将定于2015年的全国选举称为“基于生活水平的选举”。
Coining a phrase is one thing, living up to it is another. The Labour Party's recent offensive on living costs was long on point-scoring and short on detailed solutions. The government boasts of its remedies (increasing the income-tax threshold and cutting beer tax, for example), but most are more than offset by the fall in real incomes. Recent education and welfare reforms are broadly commendable, but do little to change the fundamentals. Britons lack vocational skills and are underemployed. As the firms they work for invest at an alarmingly low rate, their productivity stagnates.
喊口号是一回事,而能否实现却是另外一回事。工党近来在公民生活费用问题上咄咄逼人,但是却很少提出详细的解决方法。政府在一味吹嘘他们诸如提高收入的个税起征点、削减啤酒税等补救策略,但多数却由于公民真实收入减少造成这些补偿款的入不敷出。虽然最近的教育及福利改革被大众所接受,但这对于基本问题没有任何改善。英国人依然缺乏职业技能且就业岗位不足,原因是他们工作的公司投入率惊人地低,从而导致生产停滞不前。
Ruminating on the state of the nation, Mrs Turner describes the increasing number of people who come to the CAB with plastic bags stuffed with unopened post from creditors. They ignore the letters, and take out more loans to make ends meet. Unable to kick the debt habit and unwilling to face reality, they are a reminder of what is wrong with Britain's recovery.
深入剖析国家现状,特纳女士说,越来越多的人提着塞满债主寄来的还未开封邮件的塑料包,来到公民咨询局(CAB)。他们不去理会那些催款单,却继续申请更多贷款来维持收支平衡。他们无法摆脱债务但又不愿面对现实,而这恰巧折射出英国经济复苏时的问题所在。译者:尤熠 校对:袁航

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