This paper studies wage increases in Belgium over the period 2000-2010. It specifically aims to determine to which extent the evolution of the characteristics of the labour force (composition effects) has affected those increases. To this end, we analyse, both at the aggregate and disaggregated level, the average real wage increases in 28 industries using data from the Structure and Distribution of Earnings Survey. Together with data from the National Social Security Office, this survey offers detailed information on wages and on a large number of labour force characteristics. Our analysis is mainly based on the wage decomposition method introduced by Oaxaca (1973) and Blinder (1973).
Our results reveal substantial composition effects during the period under review, both at the aggregate level and within individual industries. Composition effects play a decisive role in the wage increases of white collar workers, but their contribution is on average negative and considerably smaller for blue collar workers. At the aggregate level, the increase in the average age of employees and in their education level and the growing number of certain better paid professional categories have contributed the most to the wage increases during that period. On the other hand, the sectoral distribution of employment, the expansion of part-time work and the higher participation rate of women in the labour market have, though to a lesser extent, brought about wage decreases.
A major concern regarding the consequences of offshoring is about the labour market position of low-skilled workers. This paper provides evidence for Belgium that offshoring has had a negative impact on the employment share of low-skilled workers in the manufacturing sector between 1995 and 2007. The main contribution to the fall in the low-skilled employment share came from materials offshoring to Central and Eastern Europe (21%), followed by business services offshoring (8%). In manufacturing industries with a higher ICT capital intensity the impact of offshoring is smaller. For market services industries, no robust conclusions regarding the impact of offshoring on low-skilled employment could be drawn.
In the national accounts labour inputs are collected by industry. Homogenising means transforming labour inputs by industry into labour inputs by product. This homogenisation is done using mathematical techniques. The paper compares the results for two wellknown techniques (product technology and industry technology) and discusses the effects of homogenisation on Belgian data for the years 2000 and 2005. Labour inputs are detailed by gender and education level. An additional distinction is made between employees and self-employed. The paper proposes a solution for the negatives problem that arises when applying the product technology model in the case of self-employed workers. It also assesses the plausibility of results by showing the effects of homogenising on wage costs and value added per head as well as on the ranking of industries by education level. The product and the industry technology model yield significantly different results, most particularly for the employment use of wholesale and retail trade. The results of the product technology model are judged to be most plausible.
Increased international economic integration and skill-biased technological change are often regarded as the main drivers of the rising inequality in wages and employment witnessed in industrialized countries in recent decades as they are believed to emphasize differences between individuals in level of education. However, proponents of a task-based view of technological change and offshoring stress the evolving content of tasks as the major determinant of shifts in labour demand and argue that this does not necessarily imply a clear-cut match between the level of education and job opportunities. Belgian data from the Structure and Distribution of Earnings Survey for the period 1999-2004 suggest that the level of wages is significantly correlated with the level of education but wage growth is not. Occupation seems to explain a statistically significant part of the wage level as well as wage growth of workers. The analysis supports the view that the level of education provides less information than the occupation of workers in explaining changes in wages and employment. Overall, it appears that a policy that simply aims to increase the level of education of the active population is not warranted. In addition to the risk of over-education, such a policy is not likely to alleviate the mismatch which to some extent exists between the competencies required by employers and the competencies offered by workers and the unemployed.
The paper describes how an input-output table can be linked to detailed employment data in order to provide qualitative employment multipliers. Qualitative employment multipliers specify the direct and indirect labour use by final demand products of worker types differentiated by gender, age class, professional status, educational attainment level, labour regime or a combination of these characteristics.