The role of the wage-productivity gap in economic activity

Marika Karanassou, Hector Sala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues that wages lagging behind productivity is a long-run structural phenomenon due to the interplay of wage dynamics and productivity growth. We call this interplay frictional growth, a term that can only be nullified in the utopian case of zero growth and/or no dynamics. In that vein, we challenge the prevailing view of the neutrality of the labour income share and investigate its impact on the evolution of employment. We thus estimate wage setting and labour demand equation systems - for France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the US over the 1960-2008 period - and find that the labour share is negatively associated with employment even when the conventional assumption of a unitary long-run elasticity of wages with respect to productivity holds. Acknowledging the presence of the wage-productivity gap in both the short and long run, this work stands as the building block for assessing the effect of the falling labour share on economic activity. As recent work has shown that the widening wage gap is also an important factor prompting inequality, it can be argued that by supporting employment the falling labour share 'sweetens' the impact of rising income inequality, and, as such, deserves the attention of policy makers. © 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-459
JournalInternational Review of Applied Economics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • employment
  • frictional growth
  • labour income share

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