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Labour cost trends and international competitiveness in Europe

Alexander Herzog-Stein (), Heike Joebges (), Ulrike Stein and Rudolf Zwiener

No 88e-2013, IMK Report from IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute

Abstract: Based on data from Eurostat the Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK) regularly analyses the development of labour costs and unit labour costs in Europe. This report presents labour cost trends in the private sector, and disaggregated for private services and manufacturing industry, for a selection of European countries, the Euro Area and the European Union. Additionally, results of a new study investigating the extent of the labour-cost relief for industrial production in Germany associated with the use of intermediate inputs from the service sector are presented. Furthermore, labour cost trends in public services are presented. Next, the development of unit labour costs in Europe and more specifically the relationship between international price competitiveness, export prices, and unit labour costs are investigated.In 2012 hourly labour cost in the German private sector averaged 31.0 euro. Despite a recent normalisation in labour-cost trends in Germany, and an annual rate of change of 2.8 per cent, well above the European average, the German economy is in eighth place in the ranking of EU countries, one place down from the previous year. Hourly labour costs in private services are one fifth lower than in manufacturing industry; in no other European country does the service sector lag manufacturing to such an extent. Due to the use of cheaper intermediate inputs from the service sector, labour costs in the German industry are reduced by eight to ten per. Overall, the picture of a highly competitive German economy is confirmed.In recent years as a consequence of dramatic unit-labour-cost developments the so called European crisis countries regained their price competitiveness. However, German demand for imports remains relatively modest and hence is still a handicap for the ongoing economic adjustment processes in these countries. Therefore wages in Germany need to increase by more than 3 % per annum for an extended period.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cse, nep-eec and nep-ger
Date: 2013
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