Volume: 1 Issue: 1

Review of Keynesian Economics

Wage-led growth: theory, evidence, policy

Engelbert Stockhammer * and Ozlem Onaran * *

Keywords: wage-led growth, income distribution, effective demand, neoliberalism, debt-led growth, export-led growth

Abstract

The paper provides an overview of the concept of wage-led growth, both as an analytical concept and as an economic policy strategy. At the core of our analysis is the distinction between wage-led and profit-led demand regimes. The Kaleckian tradition in macroeconomics asserts that a higher wage share will have expansionary effects. Bhaduri and Marglin (1990) generalize the model by allowing for classical mechanisms. The paper presents a two-country short run model to clarify the key concepts surrounding a wage-led vs a profit-led demand regime. It distinguishes carefully between partial and total effects and it analyses demand regimes with respect to national as well as international changes in the wage share. We also review the empirical literature. Our reading is that the available evidence indicates that demand in most economies is domestically wage-led. Changes in functional income distribution also have supply-side effects. Available evidence suggests that higher wage growth induces higher productivity growth. Neoliberalism resulted in an increase in inequality and a decline in the wage share, but growth has nowhere been based on the profit-led growth process. Rather neoliberalism has given rise to either debt-led or export-led growth regimes. The paper concludes by outlining a wage-led growth strategy and by discussing its limitations.

Author Notes

The authors are grateful to Paul Auerbach for helpful comments.

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