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Decoupling of Wage Growth and Productivity Growth? Myth and Reality

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Abstract

It is widely believed that in the US wage growth has fallen massively behind productivity growth. Recently, it has also been suggested that the UK is starting to follow the same path. Analysts point to the much faster growth of GDP per hour than median wages. We distinguish between "net decoupling" - the difference in growth of GDP per hour deflated by the GDP deflator and average compensation deflated by the same index - and "gross decoupling" - the difference in growth of GDP per hour deflated by the GDP deflator and median wages deflated by a measure of consumer price inflation. We would expect that over the long-run real compensation growth deflated by the producer price (the labour costs that employers face) should track real labour productivity growth (value added per hour), so net decoupling should only occur if labour's share falls as a proportion of gross GDP, something that rarely happens over sustained periods. We show that over the past 40 years that there is almost no net decoupling in the UK, although there is evidence of substantial gross decoupling in the US and, to a lesser extent, in the UK. This difference between gross and net decoupling can be accounted for essentially three factors (i) compensation inequality (which means the average compensation is growing faster than the median compensation), (ii) the wedge between compensation (which includes employer-provided benefits like pensions and health insurance) and wages which do not and (iii) differences in the GDP deflator and the consumer price deflator (i.e. producer wages and consumption wages). These three factors explain basically ALL of the gross decoupling leaving only a small amount of "net decoupling". The first two factors are important in both countries, whereas the difference in price deflators is only important in the US.

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  • Joao Paulo Pessoa & John Van Reenen, 2013. "Decoupling of Wage Growth and Productivity Growth? Myth and Reality," CEP Discussion Papers dp1246, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1246
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    Cited by:

    1. Jurica Bosna, 2018. "Estimation Of The Great Decoupling On The Example Of Croatia, As Compared With Germany And Poland," Poslovna izvrsnost/Business Excellence, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, vol. 12(1), pages 33-52.
    2. Clément Bosquet & Paul Maarek & Elliot Moiteaux, 2021. "Routine-biased technological change and wages by education level: Occupational downgrading and displacement effects," Working Papers hal-03270715, HAL.
    3. Bengtsson, Erik & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "Capital Shares and Income Inequality: Evidence from the Long Run," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 78(3), pages 712-743, September.
    4. Corry, Dan & Valero, Anna & Van Reenen, John, 2011. "UK economic performance since 1997: growth, productivity and jobs," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 47521, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. David Autor & David Dorn & Lawrence F Katz & Christina Patterson & John Van Reenen, 2020. "The Fall of the Labor Share and the Rise of Superstar Firms [“Automation and New Tasks: How Technology Displaces and Reinstates Labor”]," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 135(2), pages 645-709.
    6. Barnett, Alina & Batten, Sandra & Chiu, Adrian & Franklin, Jeremy & Sebastia-Barriel, Maria, 2014. "The UK productivity puzzle," Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, Bank of England, vol. 54(2), pages 114-128.
    7. W. Robert Brazelton, 2019. "Constant Full Employment Growth: The Economic Analysis and Policies of Leon Hirsch Keyserling, Council of Economic Advisors – The Truman Era and Beyond," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 64(1), pages 82-94, March.
    8. Dosi, Giovanni & Virgillito, Maria Enrica & Yu, Xiaodan, 2020. "The wage-productivity nexus in the world factory economy," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    9. Mathieu Dufour & Özgür Orhangazi, 2016. "Growth and distribution after the 2007–2008 US financial crisis: who shouldered the burden of the crisis?," Review of Keynesian Economics, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 4(2), pages 151-174, April.
    10. Neil Lee & Paul Sissons, 2016. "Inclusive growth? The relationship between economic growth and poverty in British cities," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 48(11), pages 2317-2339, November.
    11. Andrew Sharpe & James Uguccioni, 2017. "Decomposing the Productivity Wage Nexus in Selected OECD Countries, 1986-2013," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 32, pages 25-43, Spring.
    12. Areendam Chanda & Bibhudutta Panda, 2016. "Productivity Growth In Goods And Services Across The Heterogeneous States Of America," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(2), pages 1021-1045, April.
    13. Brian Nolan & Max Roser & Stefan Thewissen, 2016. "GDP Per Capita Versus Median Household Income: What Gives Rise to Divergence Over Time?," LIS Working papers 672, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    14. Adrjan, Pawel, 2018. "The mightier, the stingier: Firms’ market power, capital intensity, and the labor share of income," MPRA Paper 83925, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Decoupling; Wages; Productivity; Compensation; Labour Income Share.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General

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