Wages, Economic Growth Stagnate in the West


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The global economic crisis may not have been quite so global after all.

While western countries saw their economies shrink during the recession, the economies of developing nations elsewhere in the world continued to grow, though at slower rates than before the recession, according to a United Nations report released last week.

The Global Wage Report, which was put out by the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, found that the average year-over-year growth in the gross domestic product of all advanced economies grew by less than 1% in 2008, and actually shrunk by 3.2% in 2009. By comparison, the GDPs of emerging and developing countries in Asia and Africa grew by 6% in 2008, and about 2.5% in 2009.

Developing countries are expected to grow significantly faster in 2011 than countries in the West. According to the report, advanced countries have certainly recovered this year, and are expected to have their economies grow by 2.7%, but that’s nothing compared to developing economies, expected to grow by more than 7%.

The ILO’s report is based on labor data from 115 countries around the world.

Overall, it provides a strikingly comprehensive analysis of the recession’s impact on the world economy. More than 200 million people were unemployed in 2009, with millions more jobless but no longer part of the labor force, and the world economy contracted by 0.6% in 2009 for the first time in years.

Meanwhile, wage growth remained largely stagnant worldwide, especially in western countries.

On average, wages increased by 1.5% in 2008, and by 1.6% worldwide in 2009, compared to growth of 2.8% in 2007 before the economy tanked. But when considering the 20 biggest economies (excluding China), wage growth dropped to just 0.5% in 2008, and remained at that level in 2009.

Indeed, the recession’s effects were felt strongly by workers in the United States. According to the report, their average weekly earnings actually dropped by 1.1% in 2008 before increasing by 1.5% the next year. But even as wages went up in 2009, the consumer price index shot up even more, making paychecks feel measly as a result.

The main culprit for this dismal wage growth in the west during the last two years has been a decrease in the average hours worked per week. The report found that the average work week dropped by 0.7 hours in the U.S., and between 0.5-0.8 hours in many European countries, including Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

If you’re feeling discouraged about the current state of the job market, take heart. Most of the West is discouraged, too.

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