Research Topics

Publications on Competitiveness

There are 5 publications for Competitiveness.
  • Coping with Imbalances in the Euro Area

    Working Paper No. 816 | September 2014
    Policy Alternatives Addressing Divergences and Disparities between Member Countries

    In this paper we outline alternative policy recommendations addressing the problems of differential inflation, divergence in competitiveness, and associated current account imbalances within the euro area. The major purpose of these alternative policy proposals is to generate sustainably high demand and output growth in the euro area as a whole, providing high levels of noninflationary employment, as well as preventing “export-led mercantilist” and “debt-led consumption boom” types of development, both within the euro area and with respect to the role of the euro area in the world economy. We provide a basic framework in order to systematically address the related issues, making use of Anthony Thirlwall’s model of a “balance-of-payments-constrained growth rate.” Based on this framework, we outline the required stance for alternative economic policies and then discuss the implications for alternative monetary, wage/incomes, and fiscal policies in the euro area as a whole, as well as the consequences for structural and regional policies in the euro-area periphery in particular.

    Associated Program:
    Eckhard Hein Daniel Detzer

  • On the Franco-German Euro Contradiction and Ultimate Euro Battleground

    Working Paper No. 762 | April 2013

    Highlighting that France and Germany held largely contradicting hopes and aspirations for Europe’s common currency, this paper analyzes how the resulting euro contradiction conditioned the ongoing euro crisis as well as current strategies to resolve it. While Germany generally prevailed in hammering out the design of the euro policy regime, the German authorities have failed to see the inconsistency in their policy endeavors: the creation of a model whose workability presupposes that others behave differently cannot be made to work by forcing everyone to behave like Germany. This fundamental misunderstanding has made Germany the main culprit in the euro crisis, but it has yet to face the full consequences of its actions. Germany had sought every protection against the much-dreaded euro “transfer union,” but its own conduct has made that very outcome inevitable. Conversely, having been disappointed in its own hopes for the euro, France is now facing the prospect of a lost generation—a prospect, shared with other debtor nations in the union, that has undermined the Franco-German alliance and may soon turn it into the ultimate euro battleground.


  • Unit Labor Costs in the Eurozone

    Working Paper No. 651 | February 2011
    The Competitiveness Debate Again

    Current discussions about the need to reduce unit labor costs (especially through a significant reduction in nominal wages) in some countries of the eurozone (in particular, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) to exit the crisis may not be a panacea. First, historically, there is no relationship between the growth of unit labor costs and the growth of output. This is a well-established empirical result, known in the literature as Kaldor’s paradox. Second, construction of unit labor costs using aggregate data (standard practice) is potentially misleading. Unit labor costs calculated with aggregate data are not just a weighted average of the firms’ unit labor costs. Third, aggregate unit labor costs reflect the distribution of income between wages and profits. This has implications for aggregate demand that have been neglected. Of the 12 countries studied, the labor share increased in one (Greece), declined in nine, and remained constant in two. We speculate that this is the result of the nontradable sectors gaining share in the overall economy. Also, we construct a measure of competitiveness called unit capital costs as the ratio of the nominal profit rate to capital productivity. This has increased in all 12 countries. We conclude that a large reduction in nominal wages will not solve the problem that some countries of the eurozone face. If this is done, firms should also acknowledge that unit capital costs have increased significantly and thus also share the adjustment cost. Barring solutions such as an exit from the euro, the solution is to allow fiscal policy to play a larger role in the eurozone, and to make efforts to upgrade the export basket to improve competitiveness with more advanced countries. This is a long-term solution that will not be painless, but one that does not require a reduction in nominal wages.

  • A Reassessment of the Use of Unit Labor Costs as a Tool for Competitiveness and Policy Analyses in India

    Working Paper No. 624 | September 2010

    We reinterpret unit labor costs (ULC) as the product of the labor share in value added, times a price adjustment factor. This allows us to discuss the functional distribution of income. We use data from India’s organized manufacturing sector and show that while India’s ULC displays a clear upward trend since 1980 (with a decline since the early 2000s), this is exclusively the result of the increase in the price deflator used to calculate the ULC. The labor share of India’s organized manufacturing sector has been on a downward trend, from 60 percent in 1980 to 26 percent in 2007. This means that the sector’s capital share increased from 40 to 74 percent over the same period. We also find that real wages have increased minimally during the period analyzed—well below labor productivity—while the real profit rate and unit capital costs have increased substantially. We conclude that if India’s organized manufacturing sector has lost any competitiveness, it is the result of the increase in unit capital costs. Our analysis questions policy recommendations that advocate wage moderation, which result from simply looking at the evolution of the ULC, and that blame the loss of competitiveness on high or increasing wages.

  • The Recycling Problem in a Currency Union

    Working Paper No. 595 | May 2010
    The recycling problem is general, and is not confined to a multicurrency setting: whenever there are surplus and deficit units—that is, everywhere—adjustment in real terms can be either upward or downward. The question is, Which? An attempt is made to formulate the problem in terms of the European Monetary Union. While the problem seems clear, the resolution is not. It is proposed to engage the issue through a detour consistent with the Maastricht rules. Inadequate as this is, it highlights the limits of technical arrangements when governments are confronted with political economy—namely, the inability to set the rules of the larger game from within a set of axiomatically predetermined rules dependent on the fact and practice of sovereignty. Even so, an attempt at persuasion through clarification of the issues—in particular, by highlighting the distinction between recycling and transfers—may be a useful preliminary. Some of the paper’s evocations, notably on oligopoly, may be taken as merely heuristic.

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