Putting wage growth back on the table: Labour incorporation, political exchange, and wage-boosting policies in advanced peripheral economies

Assaf Shlomo Bondy*, Erez Maggor, Arianna Tassinari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Growth model scholarship posits that wage-led growth has become increasingly difficult to achieve in advanced capitalist economies since the demise of Fordism. The constraints to the pursuit of policies compatible with wage-led growth strategies could be expected to be particularly stringent in peripheral economies, which often rely on price-sensitive exports, suppression of domestic demand, and labour disempowerment to compete in global markets. Yet, empirical experience shows that even advanced peripheral economies that adopted export-led growth strategies have successfully implemented policies intended to raise wages and expand social transfers. How to explain the emergence of such wage-boosting policies in the context of advanced peripheral, export-oriented economies? Drawing on the cases of Israel, Poland, and Spain since the Great Recession, we identify one common mechanism accounting for this unexpected outcome: the contingent political incorporation of organized labour through a cross-class political exchange in the coalition supporting a country’s growth strategy. We identify two scope conditions that enable the implementation of such policies in unlikely contexts. Domestic political instability, coupled with a contingent relaxation of prior economic constraints, leads governing parties of both left and right orientation to activate political exchange with unions, resulting in the implementation of diverse policies boosting household income. These policies also increase the role of domestic consumption as a key growth driver. Nonetheless, the depth and durability of such changes remain conditioned. The findings develop our understanding of the role of, and structural limits to, organized labour’s agency to promote wage growth in advanced peripheral economies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCompetition & Change
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2024

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