Labour’s share

This is not new in Marxist economic theory. Marx put it differently to the mainstream. Investment under capitalism takes place for profit only, not to raise output or productivity as such. If profit cannot be sufficiently raised through more labour hours (ie.e more workers and longer hours) or by intensifying efforts (speed and efficiency – time and motion), then the productivity of labour can only be increased by better technology. So, in Marxist terms, the organic composition of capital (the amount of machinery and plant relative to the number of workers) will rise secularly. Workers can fight to keep as much of the new value that they have created as part of their ‘compensation’ but capitalism will only invest for growth if that share does not rise so much that it causes profitability to decline. So capitalist accumulation implies a falling share to labour over time or what Marx would call a rising rate of exploitation (or surplus value).

Michael Roberts Blog

The leading Keynesian bloggers have been discussing the causes of inequality again.  In particular, they have highlighted the apparent decline in labour’s share of national income in most advanced capitalist economies since the early 1980s.

According to an ILO report, in 16 developed economies, labour took a 75% share of national income in the mid-1970s, but this dropped to 65% in the years just before the economic crisis. It rose in 2008 and 2009 – but only because national income itself shrank in those years – before resuming its downward course. Even in China, where wages have tripled over the past decade, workers’ share of the national income has gone down.

And the very latest IMF World Economic Report finds that “After being largely stable in many countries for decades, the share of national income paid to workers has been falling since the 1980s.” 

The IMF goes on “Labor’s share…

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