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Wages Around the World: Pay Across Occupations and Countries


  • Richard B. Freeman
  • Remco Oostendorp


This study transforms the October Inquiry' Survey of wages conducted by the International Labour Organization into a consistent data file on pay in 161 occupations in over 150 countries from 1983 to 1998 to examine the pattern of pay across occupations and countries. The new file tells us that: 1. Skill differentials vary inversely with gross domestic product per capita. During the 1980s-1990s, they fell modestly in advanced countries; fell more sharply in upper middle income countries while rising markedly in countries moving from communism to free markets and in lower middle income countries. 2. Wages in the same occupation vary greatly across countries measured by common currency exchange rates and measured by purchasing power parity. Cross-country differences in pay for comparable work increased, despite increased world trade. 3. The principal forces that affect the occupational wage structure around the world are the level of gross domestic product per capita and unionisation/wage-setting institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Freeman & Remco Oostendorp, 2000. "Wages Around the World: Pay Across Occupations and Countries," NBER Working Papers 8058, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8058
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