The economics of wage-led recovery: analysis and policy recommendations
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The financial crisis and Great Recession have been followed by a jobs shortage crisis that most forecasts predict will persist for years given current policies. This paper argues for a wage-led recovery and growth program which is the only way to remedy the deep causes of the crisis and escape the jobs crisis. Such a program is the polar opposite of the current policy orthodoxy, showing how much is at stake. Winning the argument for wage-led recovery will require winning the war of ideas about economics that has its roots going back to Keynes’ challenge of classical macroeconomics in the 1920s and 1930s. That will involve showing how the financial crisis and Great Recession were the ultimate result of three decades of neoliberal policy, which produced wage stagnation by severing the wage productivity growth link and made asset price inflation and debt the engine of demand growth in place of wages; showing how wage-led policy resolves the current problem of global demand shortage without pricing out labor; and developing a detailed set of policy proposals that flow from these understandings. The essence of a wage-led policy approach is to rebuild the link between wages and productivity growth, combined with expansionary macroeconomic policy that fills the current demand shortfall so as to push the economy on to a recovery path. Both sets of measures are necessary. Expansionary macro policy (i.e. fiscal stimulus and easy monetary policy) without rebuilding the wage mechanism will not produce sustainable recovery and may end in fiscal crisis. Rebuilding the wage mechanism without expansionary macro policy is likely to leave the economy stuck in the orbit of stagnation.