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Wages Equal Productivity. Fact or Fiction?

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  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck

Abstract

If labor markets operated entirely frictionless, productivity premiums associated with different worker characteristics would equal the wage premiums earned by workers possessing those characteristics. Using matched employer-employee data from the manufacturing sector of three sub-Saharan countries, we evaluate to what extent the two premiums differ for four characteristics that are clearly related to human capital: schooling, training, experience, and tenure. Equality holds strongly and even surprisingly well for firms in Zimbabwe (the most developed country in the sample), but not at all in Tanzania (the least developed country), while results in Kenya are intermediate. Where equality fails, the pattern is for general human capital characteristics (schooling, experience) to receive a wage return that exceeds the productivity return, while the reverse applies to more firm-specific human capital characteristics (training, tenure). Schooling tends to be over-rewarded, even though large productivity gains are consistently associated with formal employee training programs. Wages tend to rise with experience, while productivity gains are mostly associated with tenure. We demonstrate the remarkable robustness of the findings controlling, among other things, for sampling errors, nonlinear effects, and non-wage benefits. Localized labor markets and imperfect substitutability of different worker-types provide a partial explanations for the estimated gap between the wage and productivity premiums.

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  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2007. "Wages Equal Productivity. Fact or Fiction?," Working Papers tecipa-294, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-294
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    3. Stephan Kampelmann & François Rycx & Yves Saks & Ilan Tojerow, 2018. "Does education raise productivity and wages equally? The moderating role of age and gender," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 7(1), pages 1-37, December.
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    6. Farok J. Contractor & Susan M. Mudambi, 2008. "The influence of human capital investment on the exports of services and goods: An analysis of the top 25 services outsourcing countries," Management International Review, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 433-445, April.
    7. Beatriz Muriel Hernández, 2016. "An Analysis of Firm Characteristics as Earnings Determinants: The Urban Bolivia Case," Development Research Working Paper Series 04/2016, Institute for Advanced Development Studies.
    8. V. Vandenberghe, 2018. "The Contribution of Educated Workers to Firms’ Efficiency Gains: The Key Role of Proximity to the ‘Local’ Frontier," De Economist, Springer, vol. 166(3), pages 259-283, September.
    9. SJ, Balaji & Pal, Suresh, 2021. "Agricultural Productivity, Pay-Gap, and Non-Farm Development: Contribution to Structural Transformation in India," 2021 Conference, August 17-31, 2021, Virtual 315213, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    10. Jozef Konings & Stijn Vanormelingen, 2015. "The Impact of Training on Productivity and Wages: Firm-Level Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(2), pages 485-497, May.
    11. Alexandre Gori Maia & Arthur Sakamoto, 2018. "Does wage reflect labor productivity? A comparison between Brazil and the United States," Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Center of Political Economy, vol. 38(4), pages 629-649..
    12. Navon, Guy, 2009. "Human Capital Spillovers in the Workplace: Labor Diversity and Productivity," MPRA Paper 17741, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Melaku Abegaz & Gibson Nene, 2018. "Gender Wage and Productivity Gaps in the Manufacturing Industry. The Case of Ghana," Economic Papers, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 37(3), pages 313-326, September.
    14. Vincent Vandenberghe, 2017. "The Contribution of Educated Workers to Firms' Efficiency Gains The Key Role of the Proximity to Frontier," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2017012, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    15. Lovász, Anna & Rigó, Mariann, 2013. "Vintage effects, aging and productivity," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 47-60.
    16. 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.
    17. Figal Garone, Lucas & López Villalba, Paula A. & Maffioli, Alessandro & Ruzzier, Christian A., 2020. "Firm-level productivity in Latin America and the Caribbean," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 186-192.
    18. Luis A. Gil-Alana & Marinko Skare, 2018. "Testing the great decoupling: a long memory approach," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 45(4), pages 801-820, November.
    19. Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2008. "Wage and Productivity Premiums in Sub-Saharan Africa," NBER Chapters, in: The Analysis of Firms and Employees: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches, pages 345-371, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Angel-Urdinola, Diego F. & Haimovich, Francisco & Robayo, Monica, 2009. "Is Social Assistance Contributing to Higher Informality in Turkey?," MPRA Paper 27675, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    sub-Saharan Africa; production function; labor market; human capital; market efficiency;
    All these keywords.

    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
    • L6 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing

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