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[Vol.26 No.1] Minimum Wage and Productivity: Analysis of Manufacturing Industry in Korea

Group :
Economic Research Institute (02-759-5490) 2020.03.31 2386

Authour : Kyoo Il Kim(Michigan State University), Seung Whan Ryuk(Bank of Korea)


Recent discussions about a minimum wage increase (MWI) and its influence on the economy have mainly focused on the quantitative aspects, such as labor costs and employment. However, concerning the qualitative aspects, an MWI could have positive effects by enhancing firm productivity and crowding out marginal firms from the market. These positive effects of an MWI can offset, to some extent, its potential negative effects – increasing labor costs and decreasing employment, among others. In this regard we empirically examine the impact of an MWI on firm productivity (total factor productivity). Using firm level panel data from the manufacturing industry in Korea, we calculate the influence rates of a minimum wage by sector and by firm size (number of workers), and analyze its effects on firm productivity. In particular, the production functions of the firms are estimated by taking into account endogeneity among the input factors, in order to resolve the drawbacks of existing studies – underestimating the capital factor coefficient and overestimating the labor factor coefficient. This study finds that the influences of an MWI on wages, employment, and productivity are substantially different across sectors and firm sizes. While an MWI has shown to have positive influences on productivity growth in the manufacturing industry as a whole, each sector demonstrates a different direction of effect, and the degree of productivity change also varies by sector. The impacts of an MWI on firm productivity are generally estimated to be more negative for smaller firms, but in some sectors the effects are found to be positive. In addition, the wage increases resulting from an MWI seem to cause a productivity enhancement across all sectors in the manufacturing industry. The policy implications of this study are as follows. Considering the empirical findings that an MWI causes an increase in productivity in many sectors of the manufacturing industry, it would be desirable to take into consideration not only the negative side effects but also the positive effects of an MWI when designing any future minimum wage policy. Moreover, in spite of there being a uniform minimum wage, this study finds that the diverse influence rates of a minimum wage across firms have different impacts on wages, employment, and productivity across sectors or firm size. This finding could be conducive to discussions about differentiation among minimum wage schemes by sector or firm size.