Matthias Kehrig, Nicolas Vincent, 14 November 2020

A decline in the labour share of income has been documented in many countries and industries. This column uses data from US manufacturing establishments to analyse the drivers of this phenomenon. It shows that the massive reallocation of economic activity was driven by establishments that lowered their labour share as they grew in size. Yet, these low labour shares are temporary, making establishments more akin to ‘shooting stars’ than ‘superstars’. Coupled with the fact that their status is associated with higher prices, the evidence points to a significant role for demand-side forces, such as product innovation or brand power. 

David Bloom, Klaus Prettner, 25 June 2020

Over the last decade there has been a tremendous progress in automation. Many tasks previously seen as un-automatable can now be performed without human labour, and the number of industrial robots in use has increased sharply. This column describes the recent trends in automation and argues that its principal effects are to increase output per capita at the expense of rising inequality. Advancing technologies have mainly replaced the routine tasks of low-skilled workers, while the incomes robots generate flow to wealthier capital owners. The current COVID-19 pandemic is likely to reinforce these trends, raising the need for a policy response.

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