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Are increasing Chinese wages good for the US?

Wages are increasing a lot faster in China than in the US. Some are saying that's a good thing, because it will keep jobs in the US, but the problem is that productivity is going up a lot faster in China as well.

Tyrone Siu/Reuters
A Galanz employee tests electric kettles at a production line in a factory in Zhongshan, southern Chinese province of Guangdong. Karlsson argues that worker wages in China are increasing more rapidly than in the United States, as is production.

Perennial optimist Mark Perry tries to spin the news that wages are increasing a lot faster in China than in the U.S. as something positive for the U.S. because this will lead to more manufacturing staying in the U.S.

He is right in the sense that all else being equal lower relative wages in the U.S. will increase the willingness of companies to invest in the U.S. rather than China. However, though lower wages is a potential mean by which to increase employment, it is negative as a self-end. That is especially true to the extent it reflects lower relative productivity, because to the extent to which productivity is also lower it will not increase employment.

This can be illustrated by the fact that average hourly earnings is more than twice as high in Germany than in Greece, but as should be obvious especially these days, that doesn't mean that Greece is more competitive than Germany, because German productivity exceeds Greek productivity even more. And though wages are increasing a lot faster in China than in the U.S., so is productivity.

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