Raising the Standard: Minimum Wages and Firm Productivity

Publication date: 29 May 2015 | Publication type: NIESR Discussion Paper | Theme: Trade, Investment & Productivity | NIESR Author(s): Riley, R | JEL Classification: J08, J31, J38, L25 | NIESR Discussion Paper Number: 449

This paper exploits the introduction of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) in Britain and subsequent increases in the NMW to identify the effects of minimum wages on productivity. We find that the NMW increased average labour costs for companies that tend to employ low paid workers, both upon the introduction of the NMW and more recently following the Great Recession when many workers experienced pay freezes or wage cuts, but the NMW continued to rise. We find evidence to suggest that companies responded to these increases in labour costs by raising labour productivity. These labour productivity changes did not come about via a reduction in firms' workforce or via capital-labour substitution. Rather they were associated with increases in total factor productivity, consistent with organisational change, training and efficiency wage responses to increased labour costs from minimum wages.

Keyword tags: 
minimum wage, labour costs, productivity, firm behaviour