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Explaining Changes in Earnings and Labour Costs During the Recession


  • Bergin, Adele
  • Kelly, Elish
  • McGuinness, Seamus


This paper utilises data from the National Employment Surveys to analyse movements in both earnings and labour costs during the period 2006 through to 2009. It finds that, despite an unprecedented fall in output and rise in unemployment, both average earnings and average labour costs increased marginally over the period. Although some factors, such as a rise in the incidence of part-time working and falls in construction employment, served to depress wages, these influences were more than outweighed by increases in both the share of and returns to graduate employment and a rising return to large firm employment. This analysis suggests that a good deal of the downward wage rigidity observed within Irish private sector employment since the onset of the recession has largely been driven by factors consistent with continued productivity growth. Nevertheless, particularly within the male labour market, a substantial proportion of the movements in wages cannot be explained by changes in either labour market composition or the returns to individual/job characteristics. The large unexplained component in the data is attributed to a general reluctance of firms to cut wages in order to avoid productivity losses associated with worker dissatisfaction or higher rates of labour turnover. In support of this view, the study demonstrates that firms will adopt strategies such as reducing staff numbers, hours worked and bonus payments, in preference to reducing wages.

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  • Bergin, Adele & Kelly, Elish & McGuinness, Seamus, 2012. "Explaining Changes in Earnings and Labour Costs During the Recession," Papers EC9, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:ec9

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jan Babecký & Philip Du Caju & Theodora Kosma & Martina Lawless & Julián Messina & Tairi Rõõm, 2010. "Downward Nominal and Real Wage Rigidity: Survey Evidence from European Firms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 112(4), pages 884-910, December.
    2. Du Caju, Philip & Kosma, Theodora & Lawless, Martina & Messina, Julián & Rõõm, Tairi, 2013. "Why Firms Avoid Cutting Wages: Survey Evidence from European Firms," Research Technical Papers 03/RT/13, Central Bank of Ireland.
    3. McCoy, Daniel & Duffy, David & Bergin, Adele & Eakins, John & MacCoille, C, 2002. "Quarterly Economic Commentary, Summer 2002," Forecasting Report, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number QEC20022.
    4. Bertola, Giuseppe & Dabusinskas, Aurelijus & Hoeberichts, Marco & Izquierdo, Mario & Kwapil, Claudia & Montornès, Jeremi & Radowski, Daniel, 2012. "Price, wage and employment response to shocks: evidence from the WDN survey," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(5), pages 783-791.
    5. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J, 1988. " Job Security, Work Incentives and Unemployment," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 90(4), pages 453-474.
    6. Jan Babecký & Philip Du Caju & Theodora Kosma & Martina Lawless & Julián Messina & Tairi Rõõm, 2009. "The margins of labour cost adjustment: survey evidence from european firms," Working Papers 108, Bank of Greece.
    7. Julián Messina & Cláudia Filipa Duarte & Mario Izquierdo & Philip Du Caju & Niels Lynggård Hansen, 2010. "The Incidence of Nominal and Real Wage Rigidity: An Individual-Based Sectoral Approach," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(2-3), pages 487-496, 04-05.
    8. Kelly, Eilish & McGuinness, Seamus & O'Connell, Philip, 2009. "Benchmarking, Social Partnership and Higher Remuneration: Wage Settling Institutions and the Public-Private Sector Wage Gap in Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 40(3), pages 339-370.
    9. Javier Gardeazabal & Arantza Ugidos, 2004. "More on Identification in Detailed Wage Decompositions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(4), pages 1034-1036, November.
    10. Barrett, Alan & Kearney, Ide & Goggin, Jean, 2009. "Quarterly Economic Commentary, Summer 2009," Forecasting Report, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number QEC20092.
    11. Rebekka Christopoulou & Juan F. Jimeno & Ana Lamo, 2010. "Changes in the wage structure in EU countries," Working Papers 1017, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    12. Weiss, Andrew W, 1980. "Job Queues and Layoffs in Labor Markets with Flexible Wages," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(3), pages 526-538, June.
    13. Fuss, Catherine, 2008. "How do firms adjust their wage bill in Belgium? A decomposition along the intensive and extensive margins," Working Paper Series 854, European Central Bank.
    14. Philip Du Caju & Theodora Kosma & Martina Lawless & Julián Messina & Tairi Rõõm, 2015. "Why Firms Avoid Cutting Wages," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 68(4), pages 862-888, August.
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    Blog mentions

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    1. Internal adjustment of the real exchange rate: Does it work?
      by in Bruegel blog on 2012-07-06 16:07:31


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    Cited by:

    1. Gorecki, Paul K., 2012. "Regulating Small Public Service Vehicles in Ireland: Is There a Problem of Oversupply?," Papers WP441, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    2. Barrett, Alan & Bergin, Adele & Kelly, Elish & McGuinness, Seamus, 2014. "Ireland's Recession and the Immigrant/Native Earnings Gap," IZA Discussion Papers 8459, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Aedín Doris & Donal O’Neill & Olive Sweetman, 2015. "Wage flexibility and the great recession: the response of the Irish labour market," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, December.
    4. Helen Russell & Frances McGinnity, 2014. "Under Pressure: The Impact of Recession on Employees in Ireland," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 52(2), pages 286-307, June.
    5. Alan Barrett & Séamus McGuiness, 2012. "The Irish Labour Market and the Great Recession," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 10(2), pages 27-33, 08.
    6. Conefrey, Thomas & Smith, Richard, 2014. "On the Slide? Salary Scales for New Graduates 2004-2012," Economic Letters 01/EL/14, Central Bank of Ireland.
    7. O'Brien, Derry & Scally, John, 2012. "Cost Competitiveness and Export Performance of the Irish Economy," Quarterly Bulletin Articles, Central Bank of Ireland, pages 86-102, July.
    8. Linehan, Suzanne & Lydon, Reamonn & Scally, John, 2015. "Labour Cost Adjustment during the Crisis: Firm-level Evidence," Quarterly Bulletin Articles, Central Bank of Ireland, pages 73-92, July.
    9. McGinnity, Fran & Russell, Helen & Watson, Dorothy & Kingston, Gillian & Kelly, Elish, 2014. "Winners and Losers? The Equality Impact of the Great Recession in Ireland," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number BKMNEXT265.
    10. Rory O'Farrell, 2015. "Wages and Ireland’s International Competitiveness," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 46(3), pages 429-458.
    11. International Monetary Fund, 2012. "Ireland; Selected Issues," IMF Staff Country Reports 12/265, International Monetary Fund.
    12. FitzGerald, John & Kearney, Ide & Bergin, Adele & Conefrey, Thomas & Duffy, David & Timoney, Kevin & Znuderl, Nusa, 2013. "Medium-Term Review: 2013-2020, No. 12," Forecasting Report, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number MTR12.
    13. Russell, Helen & McGinnity, Fran & Kingston, Gillian, 2014. "Gender and the Quality of Work: From Boom to Recession," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number BKMNEXT264.

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    cost/recession/data/employment/unemployment/wages/Productivity/growth/labour market;

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