Wage growth around the world slowed in 2013 to 2.0 per cent compared to 2.2 per cent in 2012 but it is yet to catch up to the pre-crisis rates of about 3.0 per cent, according to the ILO’s global wage report. Even this modest growth in global wages was driven almost entirely by emerging G20 economies where wages increased by 6.7 per cent in 2012 and 5.9 per cent in 2013.
By contrast, average wage growth in developed economies had fluctuated around 1 per cent per year since 2006 and then slowed further in 2012 and 2013 to only 0.1 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.
“Wage growth has slowed to almost zero for the developed economies as a group in the last two years, with actual declines in wages in some,” said Sandra Polaski, the ILO’s Deputy Director-General for Policy. “This has weighed on overall economic performance, leading to sluggish household demand in most of these economies and the increasing risk of deflation in the Eurozone,” she added.
Kristen Sobeck, economist at the ILO and one of the authors of the report observed that, “the last decade shows a slow convergence of average wages in emerging and developing countries towards those of developed economies, but wages in developed economies remain on average about three times higher than in the group of emerging and developing economies.”
Comparing how wages have changed in different regions of the world , a mong developing economies, the report notes vast differences between regions.
For example, in 2013, wages grew by 6.0 per cent in Asia and 5.8 per cent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia but only 0.8 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In the Middle East, wages appear to have advanced by 3.9 per cent, but only by 0.9 per cent in Africa, however the data for these regions is still incomplete.
The growing gap between wages and productivity has translated into a declining share of GDP going to labour while an increasing share goes to capital, especially in developed economies.
This trend means that workers and their households are getting a smaller share of economic growth while the owners of capital are benefitting more.
The report includes a detailed analysis of recent trends in household income inequality and the role played by wages in these trends.
Wages are a major source of household income in developed, emerging and developing countries alike, particularly for middle income households, while the top 10 per cent and bottom 10 per cent depend somewhat more on other sources of income.
In developed economies, wages frequently represent 70 to 80 per cent of household income in households with at least one member of working age.
In emerging and developing economies, where self-employment is more frequent, the contribution of wages to household income is usually smaller, ranging from about 50 to 60 per cent in Mexico, the Russian Federation, Argentina, Brazil and Chile to about 40 per cent in Peru, or 30 per cent in Vietnam.
“In many countries, inequality starts in the labour market, and particularly in the distribution of wages and employment,” said Rosalia Vazquez-Alvarez, econometrician and wage specialist at the ILO, also an author of the report.
Recent inequality trends have been mixed, but in a majority of countries where inequality has increased, such as in the United States or in Spain, changes in wages and employment have been the dominant force.
However where inequality has been reduced, as in Brazil, Argentina and the Russian Federation, wages and increased employment have been a driving force in reducing inequality.
The report shows that women, migrants and workers in the informal economy suffer from adverse wage gaps that cannot be explained by observable characteristics, like education or experience, which should normally explain wage differences across individuals. These wage gaps between different groups of workers also contribute to overall inequality.