Low wages in Germany and the European imbalance problem
Germany has been achieving export surpluses year by year, with few exceptions, since the 1950s. Prior to the introduction of the euro there was a regularly recurring need for imbalances in foreign trade to be corrected through upward revaluation of the deutschmark. The introduction of the euro meant exchange-rate adjustments within the eurozone were no longer available as a corrective measure. Also, the German export industry is benefiting in trade outside the eurozone from the lack of serious pressure to revalue the euro upwards, a consequence of the substantial number of eurozone nations recording import surpluses.
Protected thus inside the eurozone from revaluation, Germany’s competitive position has been further enhanced since the late 1990s as a result of below-average wage increases relative to other eurozone countries, which in effect amounts to an internal devaluation. This in turn led to a rise in German export surpluses, which by 2012 were equivalent to about 6.5% of the German gross national product: in other words, over a mere three-year period Germany is forced to invest about 20% of its GNP overseas. German surpluses are matched by corresponding deficits in other eurozone countries. Currently, the German economy finds itself in an exceptional situation in Europe as a result of its highly developed international trade links. The openness of the economy (total of exports and imports as a proportion of GNP) in Germany, France, Spain and Italy was rated in 1995 at about 50%. But in 2008 the figure for Germany reached approx. 90%, against a rise to only 60% in the other countries…
Ein Beitrag von Gerhard Bosch, Geschäftsführender Direktor Institut Arbeit und Qualifikation Universität Duisburg-Essen