Generation 40s – 四十世代

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雅虎奇招清理門戶 搵食艱難中產哀歌

Hong Kong Economic Journal
B03 | 投資者日記 | 投資者日記 | By 畢老林 |
2013-03-02

‧恒指上月逼近24000 點後即行人止步,更在外圍因素拖累下節節敗退,現時與2 月初的高位比較已跌逾6%,到底投資者現階段應趁低吸納,還是及早套現離場?陳子豪在B5 頁探討各項利淡因素,審視港股前路。

‧楊致遠成為聯想集團董事局觀察員引起廣泛討論,但股票界評論人對此大多從數字着眼,對「人物」與「制度」卻未有深刻掌握。何華真在B10 頁分從董事局層數論及金主代辦關係論兩方面,揭視人物制度的生老玄關。

‧要化解中產怨氣,首先就要了解這群人的消費模式。數據可見,早在2009 年,中產花在房屋上的開支已達33%,可見幫中產就等於要幫他們交租,問題是社會是否已形成這樣花公帑的共識?詳見B11 頁「財經DNA」。

上周談了多天國際政經的風起雲湧,今天轉轉話題,看看近日兩則有關打工仔的消息。著名「硅谷美女」、雅虎行政總裁邁耶(Marissa Mayer)【上圖】上任不久即露出惡相,禁止員工留家工作,否則飯碗不保。

科網業可謂遙距工作先驅,不僅發展了相關配套技術,同時亦身先士卒,令留家工作文化得以發揚光大,邁耶此舉引起嘩言可想而之,毀多於譽實屬意料中事。科網同業批評雅虎「新猷」只會令員工士氣低落,萌生去意,雅虎要重振聲威就更遙遙無期。女權分子對這位硅谷英雌更大失所望,以為她榮升母親不久,理應對職業婦女的辛酸深有體會,但她一聲令下禁止留家工作,等於讓不少想多花時間陪伴初生子女的已婚女士「復出」無望。

員工天性懶散?

坊間對此消息的着眼點都在於留家工作的利弊,反而《金融時報》專欄作家加珀(John Gapper)的論點較有新意,值得一記。科網業近年欣欣向榮,在高失業率的美國算得上是逆市奇葩,躋身硅谷者理應都是天之驕子,可以擇木而棲。但邁耶施行鐵腕,足見加珀口中的「搵食更艱難時代」(age of harder work)已經來臨,老闆深知打工仔的議價能力大不如前,因此可以為所欲為,就連硅谷英雄也要為兩餐而忍氣吞聲。

加珀認為,打工仔議價力大減,原因有二:一、歐美失業率大升,老闆肆無忌憚壓榨員工,人手減少,工作量照舊,員工一人分飾多角也得無奈接受;二、透過現代科技,管理層不僅能更準確量度每名員工的實際貢獻,就連其一舉一動、身處位置都盡在掌握,大有回歸「泰勒式」管理的味道,亦即員工天性懶散,必須嚴密監控。

項莊舞劍志在改革

老畢認同打工仔議價能力今非昔比,在發達國家的情況尤其如此,但在「搵食更艱難」的客觀環境下,雅虎的例子似乎更能突顯,即使同為科網專才,有些人搵食又比其他人更艱難一些。

邁耶在「舊舖」Google 戰績彪炳,以37 歲之齡臨危受命拯救雅虎,自然非等閒之輩。此次以提振士氣為名舞劍,真正目的也許是清理門戶,以便日後改革重組。

雅虎雖然尚有名氣,但江湖地位已今非昔比。正所謂人望高處,這些年跟公司不離不棄的「老臣子」,雖則不能排除其中亦有出於忠誠念舊之心,但相信更大部分是沒有更好的出路。畢竟,Google、Facebook、Twitter 等都在招聘人手,有能者的選擇多不勝數,根本不用在士氣低落(報道指雅虎停車場早上遲遲未泊滿,下午5 時就極速清場)、不受老闆尊重的環境屈就。

因此可以推斷,雅虎中的「二流專才」數不在少,他們自問難以在一線企業立足,自立門戶又欠缺初生之犢的創意及激情,留守自己的comfort zone 雖則無可奈何,但卻不失為機會成本最低的選擇。

實則甘於自我放逐、閉門造車的員工,力爭上游的志氣肯定不高,須知道,久不久在老闆視線範圍出現、跟其他同事打關係是「博升職」的基本條件,從事業發展的角度,長期留家工作絕對不利。

「二流專才」命途坎坷

由是觀之,邁耶下這道禁令非但沒有否定遙距工作對吸納良才的作用,而且完全符合論功行賞的原則:針對二流又欠缺上進心的員工,取消他們的留家工作「福利」,潛台詞就是: 「若有不滿,歡迎另謀高就。」這是二流專才的哀歌,正如加珀所言,隨着僱主掌握更多具體衡量表現的技術,職場待遇將愈來愈因人而異,即使具備專門知識又身處機會處處的行業,一樣不能幸免。

這令老畢想起另一則關於打工仔的消息。新加坡政府上周公布財政預算案,其中一項「派糖」措施, 是津貼僱主為月薪4000 坡元(約2.5 萬港元)或以下的員工加薪,補貼額最多為加薪幅度的四成。獅城此舉無非為紓緩民眾生活壓力,減少民間近年對輸入外勞政策的怨氣,但訂立這個受助者薪酬水平的界線卻耐人尋味。

以香港的標準,2.5 萬相當於入息中位數的兩倍左右,勉勉強強也可算是「低級中產」吧。老畢在網上找來一份人事顧問公司的新加坡職級薪酬表,符合受助資格的不乏專業人士,例如核數師(月薪介乎3000 坡元至4800 坡元)、證券╱股票交易商(3500 至6000 坡元)及人力資源主任(2500 坡元至4000 坡元)。新加坡政府把他們納入受助之列,自然認為他們的「加薪」行情不佳。跟低薪老弱者一樣獲政府特別關照,對於這批「二流專才」而言,不可謂不悲哀。

畢老林


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China needs bold reform to counter slowdown in fiscal revenue growth

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2013-04-26

Hu Shuli

Hu Shuli says waiting out the lean times is not an option, and officials should seize the chance to cut public spending and overhaul the tax system

The days of belt-tightening are finally here. China’s latest fiscal data shows that, in the first quarter of this year, public revenue grew by only 6.9 per cent, down 7.8 percentage points from a year earlier. In March, central government revenue even fell by 5.2 per cent year on year, a dip after five months of growth. By contrast, China’s public expenditure increased by 12.1 per cent in the first quarter. The growth in spending is outstripping the rise in revenue.

These figures are to be expected, as China’s economy is slowing after years of growth at breakneck speed.

Since reforms began, the government has from time to time seen its revenue growth slacken, most notably after China joined the World Trade Organisation. But this time it’s different. China faces a turning point and no one should hope to wait out the hard times. Instead, the relevant government departments should take the opportunity to increase budget transparency and accelerate fiscal and tax reforms.

Policymakers understand that the days of robust revenue growth are behind us, while public spending cannot be easily cut. How should the government respond? There are three things it must not do.

One, it must not levy improvised fees and charges on businesses and residents that amount to a tax hike. This was what happened last year: when local governments found their revenues declining, they imposed all kinds of unreasonable administrative charges and penalties in a misguided bid to raise revenue. This goes against the central government’s call for tax restructuring to lighten the tax burden. Unfortunately, in reality, local officials may easily evade the call to cut taxes, but cannot so easily ignore the hard targets of revenue growth.

Two, the government must not ignore the danger of budget deficits. While a balanced budget is not a must, and it’s acceptable for governments today to run a deficit as a way to buffer the economy against a downturn, such a tool should be used sparingly. China’s fiscal deficit this year is projected to be 1.2 trillion yuan (HK$1.5 trillion), a near-doubling from last year’s and a record high. In the five years from 2009, the deficit totalled 4.8 trillion yuan, several times the amount spent on tackling the Asian financial crisis. Though China’s budget deficit remains below the OECD-recognised safe level of 3 per cent of gross domestic product, its rapid rise should be a cause of concern.

Three, the mass printing of money must stop. At the end of last year, China’s M2 measure of money supply topped the world at 97.42 trillion yuan. Given government officials’ outsized appetite for investment, particularly in the wake of Beijing’s 4-trillion-yuan stimulus, this loose monetary policy will only promote the old model of inefficient growth that China now wants to avoid. It will also worsen inflation and aggravate a debt crisis.

What, then, should the government do? China’s tax burden is already heavy, nearly comparable to that in developed economies. Since 2009, it has risen to above 35 per cent of income. Officials should stop trying to explain why the current tax level is reasonable, and do more to better manage people’s wealth.

To improve its fiscal position, a government must either raise its income or cut its expenses. Today, China can try to cut unnecessary expenses, allocate funds more sensibly, and ensure they are efficiently used.

Beijing’s pressing task is to cut its administrative expenses, which have ballooned in recent years because of an expansion of the government’s role and function, and its complex bureaucratic structure.

On taking over, China’s new leaders promised they would not: build more government offices; add to official headcount but cut it; increase the budget for official receptions, overseas trips and vehicle purchase, but cut it. These targets, though widely praised, must not remain targets only. The central government’s budget for 2013 is indeed smaller than previous ones, but it has failed to meet public expectations. It must honour its promises.

The government must overhaul the fiscal and tax system to ease its financial pressures. It should make use of modern management know-how to ensure the effective use of fiscal capital. This also means it must open its books for public scrutiny to prevent abuse.

Further, with the wider application of the value-added tax, the powers and duties of different levels of government must be clearly defined. In the longer run, local governments should be able to draw up budgets and issue bonds legally and independently, under an open legal framework. The amended budget law could point the direction to further improvements.

Finance minister Lou Jiwei said recently that the government was studying how to take on the “huge task” of fiscal and tax reform. The job will no doubt be made more difficult as public expectations grow high in times of fiscal consolidation. But the government must seize the opportunities for change.

This article is provided by Caixin Media, and the Chinese version of it was first published in Century Weekly magazine. http://www.caing.com


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老師教得悶?

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C02 | 健康生活 | 德育相傳 | By 許芷茵 |
2013-03-02

那天有家長告訴我,他到女兒的學校見校長去了,因為「女兒的化學科老師教學沉悶,令女兒對化學科提不起興趣,我們原本想她成為醫生的,她現在告訴我們,中四選科也不願意選化學,將來如何進醫學院?」直指一個教學方法不合年輕人口味的老師一手扼殺了學生的前途,罪名這麼嚴重,真叫人替千千萬萬的教育工作者捏一把汗!

這是什麼年代?學生可以恣意評價老師的表現,還有家長在背後撐腰,動輒出頭,故此老師不成老師,學生不成學生,校方對待學生和家長,猶如招待貴客般戰戰兢兢,權威不復再。當小朋友胸有成竹,知道在學校遭遇任何不順心,包括被老師責備、與同學口角、飯盒不可口、校舍有蚊患等人生中比芝麻綠豆還小之事,總有父母即時抱不平的話,叫孩子如何對老師尊敬,對學校服氣?

孩子時時對老師抱存看不起之心,要教之誨之,幾近不可能。

給他熱給他光

正如就讀中四的小兒所言:「哈哈哈哈!難道要求所有老師都是資訊性與娛樂性兼備才可以作育英才?」我不是說要姑息老八股,可是一個在著名中學教足三十年的老師,總不見得是可以濫竽充數的吧?他也許自學生時代起已經是同學眼中的「科學怪人」或是「書蟲」,自出娘胎起就是所有人眼中的大悶蛋,從小到大,他從來都不是能言善辯的人,可是看見燒杯與試管會得眼睛發亮,本生燈給他熱給他光,他的幸福,叫做元素周期表。

是呀,他的妻子也投訴他悶,可是她亦時時在心底甜笑:天下間就是有這樣老老實實的人!

在同一家中學教同一科目三十年,當然,學生可以因為種種理由決定選這科不選那科,可是自他手中教出來的醫生、科學家亦堪稱桃李滿門。

有緣遇上一個風趣幽默、跟學生溝通得如魚得水,能夠關心學生德智體群美各方面的老師當然是學生之幸!然而,如果遇上了一個不合心水的老師又是不是前程盡毀的理由?隨便抓一個成年人問問,試問有誰在整個學習生涯中未曾遇上一位叫人摸不着頭腦的老師?

千般愛百般護

猶記得大學一年級時,教必修科的是一位來自蘇格蘭的老教授,他的口音,是花盡你畢生專注力都無法聽懂的一種外星語言,每周兩次坐在演講廳內的三百位學生,各出奇謀,務必要把這必修科讀好考好,否則班也不用升了。於是:交換筆記參考、到圖書館找參考書、虛心向學兄學姐請教、直接踩上教授的辦公室不明問到明為止……是否可以向院長投訴?是否轉系算了?對不起,這不是選擇題,這是掌握、面對、處理、解決日後人生中許許多多當風向不是順着你那邊時的臨床訓練與預演。

孩子獲得家人千般寵愛,百般呵護,可是你別忘了將來出來社會做事,到處都是不講理的老闆、指令不清晰的上司、脾氣欠佳的前輩、吹毛求疵的客戶、沒人性的機構、出爾反爾的政策、弱肉強食的競爭……總之千錯萬錯,反正都是人家錯,咱們家的,就是那人善被人欺的小乖乖小寶貝,於是繼續為孩子過五關斬六將,還是鼓勵他做得不開心就轉一份工,反正家裏不等你養?

盡情縱容孩子成為一個零抗逆力的人,由投訴老師開始。

許芷茵
兒童教育工作者


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The rise of the tourist hordes

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2013-04-26

Elizabeth Becker

Elizabeth Becker says the global passion for travel today is threatening to overwhelm – and destroy – that which attracted us in the first place

The world has serious concerns over fiscal crises, security crises and environmental crises. And then there are holidays – when we can put aside lofty concerns and remember what living is all about: seeing friends, hosting family reunions and running barefoot on the beach.

At least that was the definition of vacations before globalisation took off. Now they have joined the ranks of the biggest global industrial complexes. While few noticed, travel and tourism grew into a giant business sector and the world’s largest employer – beating out health care, education and retail. At least one out of every 11 people works in the industry, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Tourism contributes at least US$6.5 trillion to the world economy every year. Since the 2008 recession, its growth rate has rebounded faster than manufacturing and financial services.

A chart of the rise of international tourist trips is a thumbnail history of globalisation. The modern era of “Europe on five dollars a day” began in 1960. That year, 25 million trips were taken across foreign borders.

Then came globalisation and the opening of borders. The end of the cold war in the early 1990s accomplished just that – opening long-closed borders in eastern Europe and Asia. By 1995, when most had opened up to tourism, there were 536 million trips. Last year, the 1 billion mark was broken.

The impact of tourism on the environment, culture and society is enormous. Hordes of day-trippers have transformed beautiful cities like Venice, where 20 million tourists visit the historic city of 60,000. The environmental costs can be high as well. Cruise ships, for instance, are notorious polluters.

Not surprisingly, France and Costa Rica are two countries that understood early on tourism’s potential and the safeguards required to ensure that tourism enhanced their communities and national treasuries. But few would have guessed that Deng Xiaoping would be among tourism’s early proponents. In late 1978, he gave five “direction talks” on the central role tourism might play in China’s reform movement.

For Deng, tourism was a natural to earn China much-needed foreign cash – he predicted US$10 billion a year by the new millennium, and China reached that goal in 1996. He viewed tourism as an effective way to flip negative impressions of China and set in place a system to create a state-controlled sector that includes government-trained tourist guides extolling the joys of the open market and China. He also rightly warned that pollution from rapid industrialisation could despoil the beautiful spots that would attract tourists.

When first reporting on this stealth industry and its downsides in 2008, I was accused of threatening everyone’s right to travel. Yet every right comes with responsibility, and protecting the world’s beauties would seem obvious by demanding that the industry respect local culture, heritage and the environment.

The destinations are in peril if the public, their governments and international institutions don’t study travel’s impacts and find safeguards to protect what’s loved by all.

Elizabeth Becker is a former New York Times correspondent. Reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal Online. http://yaleglobal.yale.edu