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

  • Pablo Astorga (a1)
Abstract
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.

RESUMEN

Este trabajo discute y documenta una nueva base de datos de salarios reales de trabajadores poco calificados, medianamente calificados y calificados en Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, México, y Venezuela (LA-6) durante el período 1900-2011. En él se examinan tres aspectos relacionados: el crecimiento salarial y su relación con periodos dominados por una estrategia de desarrollo particular; la evolución de la participación salarial en el ingreso; y los cambios en la brecha salarial y sus vínculos con variables fundamentales. Los hallazgos principales son: i) los salarios poco calificados en el LA-6 crecieron un 147% comparado con un aumento de 254% en el salario medio y uno de 440% en el ingreso por trabajador (que incluye tanto ingreso de propiedad como laboral); ii) la participación salarial promedio comenzó una caída secular en la década de los años 50; iii) las brechas salariales tendieron a alcanzar máximos en las décadas intermedias del siglo veinte, coincidiendo con la aceleración de la industrialización y el devenir de la transición demográfica. Los movimientos en los términos del intercambio están asociados con los cambios en la brecha salarial, si bien la dirección del vínculo depende del país y del período.

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The author is grateful for comments to Leticia Arroyo Abad, Germán Forero, Nadine Kazerounian, Peter Lindert, Frank Borge Wietzke, Jeffrey Williamson and the referees. Assembling this new data set of real wages was only made possible by the generous help of a number of colleagues. During the early stage of the research the author was fortunate to reach (perhaps to their regret) Leticia Arroyo Abad, Ame Berges, Valpy FitzGerald, Ewout Frankema, Michael Huberman, Héctor Valecillos, Henry Willebald, Jeffrey Williamson, and Alan Wittrup for advice and data. At a country level, the autor is greatly in debt to: Florencia Aráoz and Eduardo M. Cuesta (Argentina); Eustáquio Reis, Marcelo Abreu and María Goméz León (Brazil); Mario Matus, José Díaz and Javier Rodríguez Weber (Chile); María López Uribe, Oscar Nupia, Marco Palacios and Carmen A. Romero (Colombia); Raymundo Campos Vázquez and Aurora Gómez Galvarriato (Mexico); Brian McBeth, Héctor Valecillos and Gerardo Lucas (Venezuela).

a

Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (IBEI), Carrer de Ramon Trias Fargas, 25, 08005 Barcelona, Spain. pastorga@ibei.org

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Revista de Historia Economica - Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History
  • ISSN: 0212-6109
  • EISSN: 2041-3335
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