A little musing on the labour share- possibly stupid musing.

OK, so the OECD tells us that the labour share has been falling.

One question arises whether the low level in the labour share witnessed today
corresponds to a historical low point when looking at data over the entire 20th century.
Annex B shows the evolution of the labour share of income using historical data for
France (1897-2010), United Kingdom (1856-2010) and the United States (1899-2010).
The labour share has reached a low point since World War II and is back to its 1897 level
in France. Similarly in the United Kingdom, the labour share is reaching a level similar to
the level reached before World War II. In the United States, the labour share shows a
decline in the past 30 years that pushes the labour share down to a level lower than the
level reached in the 1930s.

And how the musing. From Saez and Zucman (page 556) we find that pensions savings are now a significant portion of national wealth. Actually, it’s the major change in the make up of familial wealth.

So, our musing. Is a pension a return to capital? Sure it is in the standard accounting. But should it be? It’s rather more delayed compensation to labour, isn’t it? And if that’s so, is the decline in the labour share simply because we’re not counting pensions as labour income?

No, I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out, wouldn’t it?

3 comments on “A little musing on the labour share- possibly stupid musing.

  1. “It’s rather more delayed compensation to labour, isn’t it?” That’s its standing in law here. Pension is deferred pay. Now, what is its standing in economics? I suspect there’s a strong case that its just the same thing.

    Next, what about State Retirement Pension? That comes to you by virtue of the NICs, employee’s and employer’s, hauled off your pay (as long as you have at least ten years of NICs credited to you). Is that deferred pay too?

  2. In the case of Defined Contribution pension drawdown, it is made up of two parts: dividends (or yields) on the stocks (or bonds) you own, and cashing in the stocks (or bonds) over time. So it’s clearly both delayed earnings and return to capital.

    Annuities and Defined Benefit pensions are just a variant of the above.

    Public-sector pensions are just delayed salary; and the state pension is something else entirely.

  3. You’re right Tim; to increase the labour share and usher in the revolution we need to destroy the capital of the petty bourgeoisie.

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