Nach einer Verschlechterung in der ersten Hälfte der neunziger Jahre besserte sich die internationale Lohnstückkostenposition
der Industrie Österreichs 1996 deutlich. Durch anhaltend hohe Produktivitätszuwächse und geringere Lohnkostensteigerungen
sanken die Lohnstückkosten um 1%, während sie im Durchschnitt der Handelspartner um ½% zunahmen. Da sich die Wechselkurse
einiger wichtiger Handelspartner erholten, wertete der Schilling effekiv um 1,5% ab, sodaß die relativen Lohnstückkosten der
österreichischen Industrie gegenüber dem Durchschnitt der Handelspartner um 3% sanken.
Price competitiveness of Austria's manufacturing sector, which had deteriorated significantly in the first half of the 1990s,
improved markedly in 1996. Modest increases in labor costs (+3.4 percent) together with persistently high productivity gains
(+4½ percent) resulted in a drop in unit labor costs by 1 percent in Austria's manufacturing industry, while unit labor costs
were on the increase in Austria's major trading partners. With the currencies of several important trading partners gaining
in value since the spring of 1995 (Italy, USA, U.K., Sweden), the trade-weighted exchange rate of the schilling decreased
by 1.5 percent; thus, unit labor costs measured in a common currency declined by 3 percent relative to the major competitors
by 3½ percent relative to the EU. Exchange rate fluctuations have brought about substantial changes in Austria's international
labor costs position since the beginning of the 1990s. Today, Austria counts among the countries with the highest labor costs.
In 1996, hourly labor costs were as high as ATS 270. Labor is more costly only in Germany (ATS 333) and in Switzerland (ATS
307). Belgium, Denmark, and Norway pay only slightly more, and Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands slightly less for labor
than Austria. In the hierarchy of labor costs, Austria took tenth place as late as 1991. In 1996, manufacturing hourly labor
costs in Germany exceeded those in Austria by 23 percent; the corresponding rate was 14 percent in Switzerland. Labor costs
were considerably lower, however, in most other countries, by 14 percent in the EU, by one fourth in Italy, by 30 percent
in the USA and by 40 percent in the U.K.