More Pain Than Gain Essay

2563 Words Apr 23rd, 2014 11 Pages
More pain than gain Sep 14th 2006 From The Economist print edition

Many workers are missing out on the rewards of globalisation RICH countries have democratic governments, so continued support for globalisation will depend on how prosperous the average worker feels. Yet workers' share of the cake in rich countries is now the smallest it has been for at least three decades (see chart 5). In many countries average real wages are flat or even falling. Meanwhile, capitalists have rarely had it so good. In America, Japan and the euro area, profits as a share of GDP are at or near all-time highs (see chart 6). Corporate America has increased its share of national income from 7% in mid-2001 to 13% this year. Like so many other current economic
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But so far this decade, workers' real pay in many developed economies has increased more slowly than labour productivity. The real weekly wage of a typical American worker in the middle of the income distribution has fallen by 4% since the start of the recovery in 2001. Over the same period labour productivity has risen by 15%. Even after allowing for health and pension benefits, total compensation has risen by only 1.5% in real terms. Real wages in Germany and Japan have also been flat or falling. Thus the usual argument in favour of globalisation—that it will make most workers better off, with only a few low-skilled ones losing out—has not so far been borne out by the facts. Most workers are being squeezed.

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If GDP per person is growing fairly briskly, why are most workers missing out on real pay rises? Partly because a bigger share is going to profits, and partly because high earners have pocketed a huge slice of the gains in income, causing inequality to widen. America's top 1% of earners now receive 16% of all income, up from 8% in 1980. Wage inequality in Europe and Japan has also increased, but not by as much. A decade ago, the consensus among economists was that increasing wage inequality was caused mainly not by trade but by information technology, which has raised the demand for skilled workers relative to unskilled ones. Today, a growing number of economists agree that trade is playing a bigger role. It is hard to separate the impact

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