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Why so much wage restraint in EMU? The role of country size - Integrating trade theory with monetary policy regime accounts


  • Marzinotto Benedicta


Using theoretical models about the interaction between monetary policy-making and wage bargaining institutions, some researchers had been predicting an acceleration in wage growth under EMU (Iversen and Soskice 1998; Iversen et al 2000; Cukierman and Lippi 2001). However, the empirical evidence shows that, after the formation of the monetary union, wage growth has remained under control or even decelerated. Of the numerous explanations advanced to account for this trend, the most promising seems the one proposed by Posen and Gould (2006), who argue that behind the generalised shift towards wage restraint is enhanced monetary credibility in EMU. Whilst building on a similar argument, this paper adds to it in important respects. First, I show that the effects of a monetary union depend on labour market institutions. Second, and most originally, I argue that a strategic interaction between the ECB and non-atomistic labour unions is possible only in the case of large countries, whose price behaviour can potentially affect EU-13 inflation. This leads to the main finding behind this paper, namely that the relationship between wage growth and economy size is hump-shaped, with wage restraint more present in large and small countries, and less so in countries of intermediate size. Differently from a large country like Germany, small economies are free riders with respect to the monetary regime, but they care nonetheless for cost competitiveness, even if to different degrees. On the other hand, intermediate countries are trapped “inbetween” because neither do they believe capable of affecting euro-zone inflation, nor do they look at cost competitiveness as key to their economic survival.

Suggested Citation

  • Marzinotto Benedicta, 2008. "Why so much wage restraint in EMU? The role of country size - Integrating trade theory with monetary policy regime accounts," wp.comunite 0035, Department of Communication, University of Teramo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ter:wpaper:0035

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alfonso Arpaia & Karl Pichelmann, 2007. "Nominal and real wage flexibility in EMU," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 299-328, November.
    2. Soskice, David, 1990. "Wage Determination: The Changing Role of Institutions in Advanced Industrialized Countries," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(4), pages 36-61, Winter.
    3. Kohli, Ulrich, 2004. "Real GDP, real domestic income, and terms-of-trade changes," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 83-106, January.
    4. David Romer, 1993. "Openness and Inflation: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(4), pages 869-903.
    5. Daniels, Joseph P. & Nourzad, Farrokh & VanHoose, David D., 2006. "Openness, centralized wage bargaining, and inflation," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 969-988, December.
    6. Soskice, David & Iversen, Torben, 1998. "Multiple Wage-Bargaining Systems in the Single European Currency Area," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(3), pages 110-124, Autumn.
    7. John Driffill, 2006. "The Centralization of Wage Bargaining Revisited: What Have we Learnt?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44, pages 731-756, November.
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    More about this item


    Wage restraint; collective wage bargaining; EMU; openness; international trade;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • E50 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - General
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics

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