When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Rising Wages In Emerging Economies: What It Means For The West

A new labor report shows the narrowing gap between developed and developing worlds is also driven by Western decline

Textile workers in India (Jessica Steiner)

PARIS - The International Labor Organization (ILO) has released a new and very detailed survey on wages in 115 countries. As always the study's results are highly anticipated, as a global snapshot of trends in wages, economic growth, productivity and living standards.

This year's conclusions can be divided into two key areas: wage progress in many (but not all) emerging economies, and the general economic standstill in developed countries.

During the worst two years of the global financial crisis, 2008 and 2009, wages in rich countries did not decline as feared—but they didn't rise either. In the rest of the world, on the other hand, wages continued to climb, and in some cases, even skyrocketed. In Asia, in particular, the average worker saw a 7% increase in his wages in real terms, taking inflation into account.

In fact, the ILO report issued Wednesday found that this trend has persisted over a much longer period. Over the last ten years, average real wages have increased 25% globally. They doubled in Asia, and even tripled in some Eastern European countries. In advanced economies, however, they only increased by 5%.

Because these are averages, of course, there are some country-specific variations. In Germany, for example, wages stagnated, while in France, they grew. The ultimate takeaway, though, is the same: emerging economies are catching up, and the gap between developed and developing worlds is only narrowing. Engineers in Shanghai or Bangalore can now earn salaries not that different from what they could earn in Paris.

For years, economists have thought that emerging countries would overtake the developed world without the West slowing down. Then, they predicted that developing countries would catch up and we would slow down—a trend that many considered "normal." Today, however, many experts are saying that the developing world is catching up precisely because we are slowing down.

There is, of course, an obvious causal relationship. After all, products like electronic chips and t-shirts are simply cheaper to produce in emerging economies. But this does not explain everything. In France, for example, wage stagnation can be largely attributed to a decline in our own productivity.

So, is this necessarily good news? In principle, yes. The West welcomed worker strikes in China's Foxconn factory, where a worker earns just $300 a year. And, with rising salaries, outsourcing will become less profitable for many Western economies, meaning Europe and America will have to develop their own domestic labor force.

But many Western companies are still moving to countries like Cambodia or Indonesia, where labor is still cheaper than in China. Prices for t-shirts and televisions, meanwhile, will continue to rise for European consumers.

Though this trend could be reversed, it won't be easy. Even worse is the fact that the West must now rejoice: for the rest of the world.

Read the original article in French

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Noel, a Cuban engineer who had to emigrate to the faraway island of Saint Lucia, tells about the Cuban government's systematic intimidation techniques and coercion of its professionals abroad. He now knows he can never go back to his native island — lest he should never be allowed to leave Cuba again.

Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Next stop, Saint Lucia

Laura Rique Valero

Daniela* was just one year old when she last played with her father. In a video her mother recorded, the two can be seen lying on the floor, making each other laugh.

Three years have passed since then. Daniela's sister, Dunia*, was born — but she has never met her father in person, only connecting through video calls. Indeed, between 2019 and 2023, the family changed more than the two little girls could understand.

"Dad, are you here yet? I'm crazy excited to talk to you."

"Dad, I want you to call today and I'm going to send you a kiss."

"Dad, I want you to come for a long time. I want you to call me; call me, dad."

Three voice messages which Daniela has left her father, one after the other, on WhatsApp this Saturday. His image appears on the phone screen, and the two both light up.

The girls can’t explain what their father looks like in real life: how tall or short or thin he is, how he smells or how his voice sounds — the real one, not what comes out of the speaker. Their version of their dad is limited to a rectangular, digital image. There is nothing else, only distance, and problems that their mother may never share with them.

In 2020, Noel*, the girls' father, was offered a two-to-three-year employment contract on a volcanic island in the Caribbean, some 2,000 kilometers from Cuba. The family needed the money. What came next was never in the plans.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest