IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Globalisation, concentration and footloose firms: in search of the main cause of the declining labour share


  • Damiaan Persyn
  • John Hutchinson


Over the last two decades the share of national income which accrues to labour has followed a marked downward trend across a host of industrialised countries. This paper attempts to assess the importance of several potential causes of this phenomenon. We investigate compositional effects, the effect of declining trade costs, changes in the market structure (concentration) and the effect of low-wage competition between countries. Overall, the findings suggest that lower trade costs and factors related to economic integration such as industry concentration, the market power of firms and increased international low-wage competition indeed affect the labour share. However, their effect has been quite limited when compared to changes in the sectoral composition, the effects of technological change, cyclical factors and changes in the prices of intermediary goods.

Suggested Citation

  • Damiaan Persyn & John Hutchinson, 2009. "Globalisation, concentration and footloose firms: in search of the main cause of the declining labour share," LICOS Discussion Papers 22909, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
  • Handle: RePEc:lic:licosd:22909

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & JosÈ-Victor RÌos-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 2000. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1029-1054, September.
    2. Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2008. "International profit shifting within multinationals: A multi-country perspective," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1164-1182, June.
    3. John Hutchinson & Damiaan Persyn, 2012. "Globalisation, concentration and footloose firms: in search of the main cause of the declining labour share," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 148(1), pages 17-43, April.
    4. Bentolila Samuel & Saint-Paul Gilles, 2003. "Explaining Movements in the Labor Share," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-33, October.
    5. John W. Budd & Jozef Konings & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2005. "Wages and International Rent Sharing in Multinational Firms," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 73-84, February.
    6. Mezzetti, Claudio & Dinopoulos, Elias, 1991. "Domestic unionization and import competition," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-2), pages 79-100, August.
    7. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
    8. Mayer, Thierry & Paillacar, Rodrigo & Zignago, Soledad, 2008. "TradeProd. The CEPII Trade, Production and Bilateral Protection Database: Explanatory Notes," MPRA Paper 26477, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Alfonso Arpaia & Esther Pérez & Karl Pichelmann, 2009. "Understanding Labour Income Share Dynamics in Europe," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 379, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    10. Gianmarco Ottaviano & Takatoshi Tabuchi & Jacques-FranÁois Thisse, 2002. "Agglomeration and Trade Revisited," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(2), pages 409-436, May.
    11. Keith Head & John Ries, 2001. "Increasing Returns versus National Product Differentiation as an Explanation for the Pattern of U.S.-Canada Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 858-876, September.
    12. Marcel P. Timmer & Mary O’Mahony & Bart van Ark, 2007. "EU KLEMS Growth and Productivity Accounts: An Overview," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 14, pages 71-85, Spring.
    13. Luís M B Cabral & José Mata, 2003. "On the Evolution of the Firm Size Distribution: Facts and Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1075-1090, September.
    14. Marc J. Melitz & Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano, 2008. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(1), pages 295-316.
    15. Daron Acemoglu, 2003. "Labor- And Capital-Augmenting Technical Change," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(1), pages 1-37, March.
    16. Alain Serres & Stefano Scarpetta & Christine Maisonneuve, 2001. "Falling Wage Shares in Europe and the United States: How Important is Aggregation Bias?," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 375-401, December.
    17. Mueller, Dennis C., 1996. "Lessons from the United States's antitrust history," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 415-445, June.
    18. Finn E. Kydland & Edward C. Prescott, 1990. "Business cycles: real facts and a monetary myth," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 3-18.
    19. Hall, Robert E, 1988. "The Relation between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(5), pages 921-947, October.
    20. Oliver J. Blanchard, 1997. "The Medium Run," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 89-158.
    21. Vermeulen, Philip, 2007. "Can adjustment costs explain the variability and counter-cyclicality of the labour share at the firm and aggregate level?," Working Paper Series 772, European Central Bank.
    22. Lyons, Bruce & Matraves, Catherine & Moffatt, Peter, 2001. "Industrial Concentration and Market Integration in the European Union," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(269), pages 1-26, February.
    23. Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2007. "International Profit Shifting within European Multinationals," CEPR Discussion Papers 6048, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    24. Florence Jaumotte & Irina Tytell, 2007. "How Has The Globalization of Labor Affected the Labor Income Share in Advanced Countries?," IMF Working Papers 07/298, International Monetary Fund.
    25. Klapper, Leora & Laeven, Luc & Rajan, Raghuram, 2006. "Entry regulation as a barrier to entrepreneurship," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 591-629, December.
    26. Carlo Altomonte, 2007. "Regional Economic Integration and the Location of Multinational Firms," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 143(2), pages 277-305, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:metroe:v:68:y:2017:i:4:p:730-776 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Georges Vivien Houngbonon & Pascal Da-Costa, 2017. "Declining Labor Share and Innovation," Working Papers hal-01653816, HAL.
    3. John Hutchinson & Damiaan Persyn, 2012. "Globalisation, concentration and footloose firms: in search of the main cause of the declining labour share," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 148(1), pages 17-43, April.
    4. Jan Hogrefe & Marcus Kappler, 2013. "The labour share of income: heterogeneous causes for parallel movements?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 11(3), pages 303-319, September.
    5. Trapp Katharina, 2015. "Measuring the Labour Income Share of Developing Countries: Learning From Social Accounting Matrices," WIDER Working Paper Series 041, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. repec:spr:eurasi:v:4:y:2014:i:1:p:3-30 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:spr:pharme:v:4:y:2014:i:1:p:3-30 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Bournakis, Ioannis & Vecchi, Michela & Venturini, Francesco, 2015. "Off-shoring, specialization and R&D," MPRA Paper 68382, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Judzik, Dario & Sala, Hector, 2015. "The determinants of capital intensity in Japan and the US," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 78-98.
    10. Guschanski, Alexander & Onaran, Özlem, 2017. "The political economy of income distribution: industry level evidence from 14 OECD countries," Greenwich Papers in Political Economy 17518, University of Greenwich, Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre.
    11. Michael Siegenthaler & Tobias Stucki, 2014. "Dividing the Pie: The Determinants of Labor's Share of Income on the Firm Level," KOF Working papers 14-352, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.

    More about this item


    factor shares; globalisation;

    JEL classification:

    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:lic:licosd:22909. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.