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Coordination versus flexibility in wage formation: a focus on the nominal wage impact of productivity in Germany, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United States

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Wage coordination between countries of the European Monetary Union (EMU) aims at aligning nominal wage growth with labour productivity growth at the national level. We analyse the developments in Germany, the EMU’s periphery countries Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain along with the United States over the period 1980 to 2010. Apart from the contribution of productivity to nominal wages, we take into account the contributions of prices, unemployment, replacement rates and taxes by means of an econometrically estimated nonlinear equation resulting from a wage bargaining model. We further study the downward rigidities of nominal wages. The findings show that in past times of low productivity, price inflation and reductions in unemployment still put significant upward pressure on nominal wage growth. The periphery countries are far from aligning nominal wage growth with productivity growth. German productivity is a major wage determinant, but surely not the only one. Within the context of a free bargaining process between employers and labour unions, policy-makers can effectively use the replacement rate to steer the nominal wages outcome.
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Keywords: C22; E24; E5; E6; J30; compensation per employee; labour market; monetary union; prices; productivity; replacement rate; unemployment; unit labour costs

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, Wassenaar, Netherlands 2: Sveriges Riksbank, SE-10337, Stockholm, Sweden

Publication date: 2014-03-03

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