Hatte sich die internationale Lohnstückkostenposition der Industrie Österreichs in den achtziger Jahren pro Jahr um 0,7% verbessert,
so verschlechtert sich seit 1990 pro Jahr um ½%. Trotz anhaltend hoher Zuwächse konnten die Produktivitätsgewinne in den neunziger
Jahren den Lohnauftrieb und den Wertgewinn des Schillings nicht ausgleichen. 1994 sanken die Lohnstückkosten in der österreichischen
Industrie durch eine deutliche Steigerung der Produktivität um 3,6%. Da sich jene der Handelspartner noch stärker verringerten,
verschlechterte sich aber die internationale Wettbewerbsposition.
Keywords:Verschlechterung der Wettbewerbsfähigkeit trotz sinkender Lohnstückkosten; In 1994 Austria's Competitiveness Declined Despite
a Drop in Unit Labor Costs
Research group:Labour Market, Income and Social Security
In 1994 Austria's Competitiveness Declined Despite a Drop in Unit Labor Costs
The international labor cost position of Austria's economy has changed significantly during the first half of the nineties.
Changes in the exchange rates beginning with September 1992 brought about enormous shifts in the international hierarchy of
labor cost positions. In 1994, the hourly wage in Austria's manufacturing sector was Sch 248. Thus Austria belongs to the
group of countries with the highest labor costs, just behind West Germany (Sch 309), Switzerland, and Belgium. As late as
1991 Austria was ranked number ten. In 1994 the average hourly wage in manufacturing in EU countries was 12 percent lower
than in Austria. In Italy and in the U.S., business pays one fifth less for labor, in the U.K., 37 percent less than in Austria.
The devaluation of these currencies in the spring of 1995 has further increased the disparity. Huge differentials continue
to exist vis-à-vis the economies in East-Central Europe: hourly labor costs as a percent of the level in Austria are 13 in
Hungary, 10 in Poland, 9 in the Czech Republic and 8 in the Slovak Republic. This low-wage competition in Austria's immediate
proximity so far has been held in check by the problems encountered during the transition period, large differentials in productivity,
and in infrastructure. During the eighties Austria's manufacturing sector succeeded in compensating relative increases in
labor costs induced by the appreciation of the schilling by above-average productivity gains, and managed even to improve
Austria's competitive position. During the nineties, however, the turbulences in the foreign exchange markets were not fully
offset despite sustained high productivity increases (+4.9 percent per year). Since 1990, the increase in relative unit labor
costs in Austria measured in a common currency was about ½ percentage point higher than in Austria's trading partners and
in the EU on average. The slowdown in wage inflation and labor shedding (hourly productivity rose by 8.1 percent) combined
to lower unit labor costs in Austria's manufacturing sector in 1994 by 3.6 percent. But the cost position of Austria's manufacturing
sector continued to deteriorate because in Austria's trading partners the drop in unit labor costs was even more pronounced:
3.9 percent in all OECD countries, 4.5 percent in the EU countries. Of particular importance to Austria was the development
in West Germany: low wage increases and high productivity gains due to labor force reductions resulted in a drop of 5.6 percent
in unit labor costs. The cost competitiveness of Austria's manufacturing sector deteriorated by 0.3 percent vis-à-vis the
OECD countries, and by 2.0 percent vis-à-vis West Germany.