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REAL WAGES AND SKILL PREMIUMS IN LATIN AMERICA, 1900-2011*

Pablo Astorga ()

Revista de Historia Económica / Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History, 2017, vol. 35, issue 3, 319-353

Abstract: This paper discusses and documents a new data set of real wages for unskilled, semi-skilled and relatively skilled labour in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela (LA-6) over the period 1900-2011. Three interrelated aspects are examined: the wage growth record associated with periods dominated by a particular development strategy; developments in the wage share of income; and movements in skill premiums and their links with fundamentals. The key findings are: (i) the region’s unskilled wage rose by 147 per cent compared to rises of 254 per cent in the average wage and 440 per cent in income per worker (including both property and labour income); (ii) the average LA-6 wage share started a secular fall in the 1950s; (iii) skill premiums tended to peak during the middle decades of the 20th century, coinciding with the acceleration of industrialisation and the timing of the demographic transition. Movements in the terms of trade are broadly associated with both fluctuations and trends in wage premiums, though the direction of the link is country and time specific.

Date: 2017
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