Global Wage Report 2018/19

Asia-Pacific wage growth stalls but stays ahead of the rest of the world

The latest ILO Global Wage Report 2018/19 finds that the global wage growth fell to its lowest rate since 2008. Although remaining above the global rate, wage growth in Asia also slowed down in 2017.

Press release | 26 November 2018
GENEVA (ILO News) –Worldwide wage growth reached a new low in 2017 and most of the growth was driven by modest gains in emerging and developing countries in Asia-Pacific according to a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report.

The Global Wage Report 2018/19 finds that in real terms (adjusted for price inflation) global wage growth declined to 1.8 per cent in 2017 from 2.4 per cent in 2016. Although Asia-Pacific’s wage growth outpaced other regions’, it also slowed down in 2017, falling from 4.8 per cent in 2016 to 3.5 per cent in 2017.

“If Asia is not considered, the global average wage growth was a meagre 1.0 per cent in 2017 and 1.2 per cent in 2016. Current wage growth is thus not far from the nadir reached during the period of the global financial crisis,” says Daniel Kostzer, ILO Senior Wage Specialist in the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Zooming in on Asia and the Pacific

  • Wage growth slowed down in all Asia-Pacific sub-regions, but with a minimal change in Eastern Asia.
  • In 2017 wage growth in the region’s high-income countries was close to zero.
  • South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific witnessed the most dramatic drop, from the 8.4 per cent wage growth in 2016 to 2.4 percent in 2017.
  • Eastern Asia is still the main driver of regional growth with 3.7 per cent wage growth in 2017, closely followed by Southern Asia at 3.6 per cent.

Global trends

In analysing wage growth, the report finds that in advanced G20 countries real wage growth declined from 0.9 per cent in 2016 to 0.4 per cent in 2017. By contrast, in emerging and developing G20 countries, including China, India and Indonesia, real wage growth fluctuated between 4.9 per cent in 2016 and 4.3 per cent in 2017.

“It’s puzzling that in high-income economies we see slow wage growth alongside a recovery in GDP growth and falling unemployment. And early indications suggest that slow wage growth continues in 2018,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “Such stagnating wages are an obstacle to economic growth and rising living standards. Countries should explore, with their social partners, ways to achieve socially and economically sustainable wage growth.”

In the last 20 years, average real wages have almost tripled in emerging and developing G20 countries, while in advanced G20 countries they have increased by just 9 per cent, the report shows. But, in many low- and middle-income economies, wage inequality remains high and wages are frequently insufficient to cover the needs of workers and their families.

Gender pay gap

Using new data covering some 70 countries and about 80 per cent of wage employees worldwide, the report finds that globally women continue to be paid approximately 20 per cent less than men.

“The gender pay gap represents one of today’s greatest manifestations of social injustice, and all countries should try to better understand what lies behind them and accelerate progress towards gender equality,” said Guy Ryder.

For further information please contact:

  • Ms Jiraporn Wongpaithoon,
  • Ms Laetitia Dard,