Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spanish working class is highly productive but badly paid

That is what Catalan economist Vicenç Navarro argues today at his blog, quoting the Economic Policy Institute of Washington D.C. This contradicts the official discourse of the Euro-bourgeoisie, including the Spanish elite, by which Spain has low productivity and this is at the root of its financial problems (instead of speculative matters, as is actually the case). 

The facts are that:
  • Spaniards work 1654 hours (yearly), well above the OECD average of 1628 hours. 
  • Productivity growth in the Spanish State was 5.4% in the 2007-2009 period, compared with a negative growth of -1.1% in the OECD (average) and 4% in the USA. 
  • Spain was also the OECD state that destroyed the most jobs (7.4%), even if it was already the state with the highest unemployment in the Developed World.
  • Spanish productivity is above that of Japan or New Zealand. 
  • Spanish salaries are among the lowest in the OECD (just above Greece and Portugal), being 84% of those in the USA. By comparison, most EU-15 states are well above the US salary levels. 
  • Spain is also one of the few OECD states where public intervention almost does not reduce poverty (barely a 3.5% less, while this figure is 21.4% in Sweden and 9% in such an ultra-competitive economy as the USA)
In relation with this, I worked out some weeks ago a rather revealing (2006) regional productivity in EU map, which compared two Eurostat maps: the one of income per capita and the one of GDP per capita, both of which were divided in five segments (that I hereby will describe as very low, low, middle, high and very high); when these segments were the same for GDP/capita and for income/capita, I considered the situation balanced and marked the region green. For imbalances against workers (i.e. high productivity or high exploitation, whichever you prefer) I used yellow, orange and red colors (for one, two and three tier differences respectively). For imbalances in favor of workers' income (i.e. low productivity or low exploitation), I used blue shades (light blue for one tier of difference and regular blue for two tiers). 

Notice that the comparison cannot include after-taxes welfare redistribution, which is high in Scandinavia and Germany and rather low elsewhere, specially in Southern Europe. 

Here is the map:

There are some surprises. Notably that the often decried as parasitic or otherwise unproductive regions are not such thing: neither the so-called PIIGS are such a bottomless pit of low productivity/exploitation (not at all) neither areas like Walloonia or Southern Italy show apparent levels of low productivity compared to their northern accusers. This map illustrates how such claims are arbitrary and nonsensical. 

On the other hand, we can appreciate that some of the most benefited areas in the current status quo (high salaries compared to GDP per capita, blue colors) are in Germany and France. Britain also has many of such privileged areas but they are compensated to some extent by a few exploited districts of the Northeast.

By contrast, the situation of Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Greece and the districts around Bratislava in the Middle Danube, show clear signs of marked exploitation. In the Northern European cases, these are surely offset by a reasonably good welfare state, but that is not the case elsewhere.

It seems clear that the three major EU powers, Germany, France and Britain, are benefiting from their privileged status quo to some extent and that the accusations launched against peripheral countries seem baseless and mostly an attempt to keep or increase the necolonial exploitation of EU's periphery by the core powers.


  1. Is the city of London GREEEEEN?
    Am I getting it wrong?

  2. Looks like that. Probably high GDP and high salaries (i.e. balanced - other "green" areas have low GDP and low salaries, etc.) Check the sources anyhow.


Please, be reasonably respectful when making comments. I do not tolerate in particular sexism, racism nor homophobia. The author reserves the right to delete any abusive comment.

Comment moderation before publishing is... ON