Wage growth dispersion across the euro area countries - some stylised facts
This study presents some stylised facts on wage growth differentials across the euro area countries in the years before and in the first eight years after the introduction of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999. The study shows that wage growth dispersion, i.e. the degree of difference in wage growth at a given point in time, has been on a clear downward trend since the early 1980s. However, wage growth dispersion across the euro area countries still appears to be higher than the degree of wage growth dispersion within West Germany, the United States, Italy and Spain. Differences in wage growth rates between individual euro area countries and the euro area in the years before and in the first eight years after the introduction of EMU appear to be positively related to the respective differences between their Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) inflation and average HICP inflation in the euro area. Conversely, relative wage growth differentials across euro area countries have been somewhat unrelated to relative productivity growth differentials. Some countries combine positive wage growth differentials and negative productivity growth differentials vis-à-vis the euro area average over an extended period – and hence positive unit labour cost growth differentials. These countries run the risk of accumulating competitiveness losses and it is therefore a challenge to ensure that the necessary adjustment mechanisms operate fully, in the sense that wage developments are sufficiently flexible and reflect productivity developments. Wage growth persistence within individual euro area countries – largely reflecting inflation persistence and certain institutional factors – might also have contributed somewhat to wage growth differentials across the euro area countries. Moreover, wage level convergence has also played a role in explaining wage growth patterns in the 1980s and the 1990s. However, since 1999, the link between the initial compensation level and the subsequent growth rate of compensation per employee appears barely significant. The study also shows a limited co-movement of wage growth across countries, even in the context of a high degree of business cycle synchronisation seen in the last few years. This suggests that the impact on wage growth of country-specific developments across euro area countries has been larger than the impact of common cyclical developments and external shocks. This could reflect the normal and desirable working of adjustment mechanisms, which – in an optimally functioning currency union with synchronised business cycles – would take place via price and cost and wage developments. On the other hand, structural impediments, for example a relatively low degree of openness in domestically-oriented sectors in some countries, might prevent a stronger link between the degree of synchronisation of wage growth rates and business cycles. JEL Classification: E24, E31, C10.
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