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Lonen in Europa: goed nieuws

Paul Krugman ziet het somber in voor Europa. De Europese Centrale Bank lijkt vooral bezig met de inflatie in Duitsland laag te houden – wat betekent dat een aantal andere landen (Spanje, Griekenland) tot deflatie moeten overgaan willen ze althans enigermate op kunnen tegen de Duitse exportmachine. En op de Nederlandse huizenmarkt worden we op dit moment met de neus op de feiten gedrukt wat betreft de gevolgen van deflatie: een heuse kopersstaking met alle desastreuze gevolgen van dien.

Maar er is ook goed nieuws. De lonen in Duitsland zijn in het tweede kwartaal met 4,8% gestegen. Omdat de werkgelegenheid met 1,2% toenam betekent dit dat de totale Duitse loonsom met ongeveer 6% is gestegen. Let wel: ongeveer, omdat de werkgelegenheidsdata inclusief ZZP-ers zijn, terwijl de lonen een ‘unit value’ waarde zijn: (totale uitbetaalde loonsom/totaal aantal betaalde uren). Overigens betekent dit ook dat de loonontwikkeling zoals die door Eurostat wordt weergegeven niet enkel is gebaseerd op bijvoorbeeld de ontwikkeling van de contractuele lonen maar ook op verschuivingen tussen sectoren. Een verschuiving van arbeid van een relatief laagbetaalde naar een relatief hoogbetaalde sector kan, terwijl de contractlonen gelijk blijven, toch tot een stijging van de unit value lonen leiden.

Dit alles is om twee redenen goed nieuws.

* Ten eerste: in Duitsland is geen extreem private schuldenprobleem – dus deze lonen zullen niet hoofdzakelijk verdwijnen in de deflatoire put van schuldaflossing. Het zal de bestedingen dus positief beinvloeden.

* Ten tweede: de lonen in Griekenland en Ierland zijn gedaald, met ongeveer 3,5%, terwijl de Portugese lonen min of meer gelijk zijn gebleven en de Spaanse lonen zeer licht zijn gestegen (let wel: ik schrijf hier over nominale lonen, de koopkracht van bijvoorbeeld de Griekse lonen zal ongeveer 5-7% minder zijn dan vorig jaar (moeilijk te berekenen omdat de inflatie in Griekenland snel verandert)). Anders dan Krugman vreest worden de offers in de zuidelijke landen niet gelijk teniet gedaan door deflatoire ontwikkelingen in Duitsland. Ook de lonen in een ander overschotland met lage werkloosheid, Oostenrijk, zijn aanzienlijk gestegen. Nederland blijft wat dat betreft echter achter.

Overigens zijn lage lonen geen ‘automatische’ oplossing voor de problemen: een land moet om te concurreren een exportsector hebben, met goede producten. Lage lonen helpen slechts in beperkte mate mee de export te doen groeien, zeker op de korte termijn. Zoals in elk (echt elk) marketingboekje staat: het gaat niet enkel om de prijs maar ook om het product (en de plaats, en het personeel, en de promotie enzovoorts). In Spanje en Ierland hebben we gezien dat een lager prijsniveau vooral tot investeringen in huizen leidde, en niet tot de groei van een exportsector. Terzijde: omdat de lonen in de industriesector in Duitsland hoger zijn dan het gemiddelde en in Spanje en Griekenland juist lager is het loonverschil tussen de exportsectoren (voornamelijk de industrie) veel hoger dan blijkt uit de Unit Labor Cost cijfers die vaak worden gebruikt om het verschil in arbeidskosten te meten.

Niet alleen blijkt hieruit duidelijk dat lage lonen als zodanig niet tot een concurrentievoordeel leiden – ook blijkt dat de lage (industrie)lonen in Spanje en Griekenland niet genoeg waren om een exportsector te laten ontstaan. Daar is, kennelijk, meer voor nodig. Maar in ieder geval komt er door de Duitse ontwikkelingen wat meer lucht voor Spanje en Griekenland, zeker als de hogere Duitse lonen ook tot meer bestedingen gaan leiden. Het zal allemaal nog een tijd duren, mede gezien de extreme omvang van de problemen (in Griekenland was het tekort op de lopende rekening in 2009 bijna 15% van het BBP…). Desondanks: goed nieuws.

10 Responses to “Lonen in Europa: goed nieuws”

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