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Wage and Productivity Premiums in Sub-Saharan Africa


  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck


Using a matched employer-employee data set of manufacturing plants in three sub-Saharan countries, I compare the marginal productivity of different categories of workers with the wages they earn. A methodological contribution is to estimate the firm level production function jointly with the individual level wage equation using a feasible GLS estimator. The additional information of individual workers leads to more precise estimates, especially of the wage premiums, and to a more accurate test. The results indicate that equality holds strongly for the most developed country in the sample (Zimbabwe), but not at all for the least developed country (Tanzania). Moreover, the breakdown in correct remuneration in the two least developed countries follows a distinct pattern. On the one hand, wage premiums exceed productivity premiums for general human capital characteristics (experience and schooling). On the other hand, salaries hardly increase for more firm-specific human capital characteristics (tenure and training), even though these have a clear productivity effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2007. "Wage and Productivity Premiums in Sub-Saharan Africa," NBER Working Papers 13306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13306
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James R. Tybout, 2000. "Manufacturing Firms in Developing Countries: How Well Do They Do, and Why?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 11-44, March.
    2. Van Biesebroeck, Johannes, 2005. "Firm Size Matters: Growth and Productivity Growth in African Manufacturing," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(3), pages 545-583, April.
    3. Eslava, Marcela & Haltiwanger, John & Kugler, Adriana & Kugler, Maurice, 2004. "The effects of structural reforms on productivity and profitability enhancing reallocation: evidence from Colombia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 333-371, December.
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    5. Naércio Aquino Menezes Filho & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2007. "Labor Reallocation in Response to Trade Reform," CESifo Working Paper Series 1936, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Jones, Patricia, 2001. "Are educated workers really more productive?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 57-79, February.
    7. Van Biesebroeck, Johannes, 2011. "Wages Equal Productivity. Fact or Fiction? Evidence from Sub Saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(8), pages 1333-1346, August.
    8. Lorraine Dearden & Howard Reed & John Van Reenen, 2006. "The Impact of Training on Productivity and Wages: Evidence from British Panel Data," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 68(4), pages 397-421, August.
    9. Judith K. Hellerstein & David Neumark, 2007. "Production Function and Wage Equation Estimation with Heterogeneous Labor: Evidence from a New Matched Employer-Employee Data Set," NBER Chapters,in: Hard-to-Measure Goods and Services: Essays in Honor of Zvi Griliches, pages 31-71 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Bigsten, Arne, et al, 2000. "Rates of Return on Physical and Human Capital in Africa's Manufacturing Sector," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(4), pages 801-827, July.
    11. Simon Appleton & John Hoddinott & John MacKinnon, 1996. "Education and health in sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(3), pages 307-339.
    12. Fafchamps, Marcel, 1997. "Introduction: Markets in sub-saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 733-734, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Irarrazabal, Alfonso & Moxnes, Andreas & Ulltveit-Moe, Karen-Helene, 2009. "Heterogeneous firms or heterogeneous workers? Implications for the exporter premium and the impact of labor reallocation on productivity," CEPR Discussion Papers 7577, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Carla Haelermans & Lex Borghans, 2012. "Wage Effects of On-the-Job Training: A Meta-Analysis," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 50(3), pages 502-528, September.
    3. Cristian Bartolucci, 2010. "Understanding the Native-Immigrant Wage Gap Using Matched Employer-Employee Data. Evidence from Germany," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 150, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    4. Fox, Louise & Oviedo, Ana Maria, 2008. "Are skills rewarded in Sub-Saharan Africa ? determinants of wages and productivity in the manufacturing sector," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4688, The World Bank.
    5. Michele Battisti & Giovanna Vallanti, 2013. "Flexible Wage Contracts, Temporary Jobs, and Firm Performance: Evidence From Italian Firms," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 737-764, July.
    6. Michele Battisti & Giovanna Vallanti, 2011. "Flexible Wage Contracts, Temporary Jobs and Worker Performance: Evidence from Italian Firms," Working Papers CELEG 1105, Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza, LUISS Guido Carli.
    7. Van Biesebroeck, Johannes, 2011. "Wages Equal Productivity. Fact or Fiction? Evidence from Sub Saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(8), pages 1333-1346, August.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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