From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Dec 09 2003 - 08:12:07 EST
Paul C: Some 'thinking out loud' comments on the 'wage share in national income': 1) Over a very long-term historical period the wage share of national income has gone _up_ (rather than remaining stable) for the following reason: as the process of concentration and centralization of capital continues, a greater proportion of the population become wage-earners (i.e. an increasing wage share of national income -- especially prior to the advent of 'late capitalism' -- is a reflection of the process of increasing proletarianization). 2) For the advanced capitalist nations, the percentage of wage-workers to the total population has -- abstracting from cyclical variations when greater number of people are either thrown into or out of the IRA -- remained fairly constant (e.g. in the US, the rate since the 1960's has been about 80-82%) in recent decades. If then there is a relatively stable wage share of national income it requires rising real wages if the real national income has been rising during that same period. The explanation for this might be that workers, through trade unions, have been successful in raising real wages but _only_ by an amount (roughly) equal to the growth of real national income. To understand why this has been the case in different advanced capitalist nations requires an examination of conjuncttual factors that affect the balance of class forces. 3) For the capitalist social formations in those countries which are _not_ advanced capitalist nations, while there has also been a long-term process of proletarianization which should have resulted in a increasing wage share of national income, in recent decades there has been 'de-proletrianization' as mass amounts of workers join the IRA and then over time become part of the 'petty commodity sector' (i.e. 'informal' sector). While many who are employed in the petty commodity sector are wage-earners, a very significant percentage who earn their living in that sector are 'self-employed.' Also, the amount of people who become 'bonded labor' and who don't receive a wage has been increasing in many of these social formations. It's difficult to get hard data on the petty commodity and bonded labor sectors because they have a semi- or non-legal status in many countries, but there is reason to believe that with many millions of people employed in these sectors, this would cause the wage share of national income to _decline_ even when (if) the real wages for wage-earners are increasing. As a consequence, rather than there being one trend related to the wage share of national income there are several observable different trends that vary depending on the historical time period and region that one is discussing. In solidarity, Jerry > I know that it declined over that period, but over > the 60s it went up. I have done empirical work > measuring this, but these differences are fluctuations > by a multiplicative factor of less then 2. What > I am saying is we need a theory of the order of > magnitude that we actually observe. > > If real wages in the USA were the same as those > in Bangladesh, we would have a wage share that > was different by an order of magnitude.
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