The unemployment rate in Argentina was about 10 percent in 1993. It increased sharply over the next two years, decreased somewhat in the mid to late 1990s, and then increased again to almost 20 percent in 2002. Source: Ministra de Economía y Producción de Argentina. Real Wages Average real GDP figures tell us nothing about how GDP is shared in an economy. They tell us how big the pie is but not who has the largest and smallest slices. Economists therefore also look at other measures that tell us about the economic environment as it is experienced by workers and households. Wages in an economy provide a sense of how workers are doing. However, the wage in dollars—the nominal wage—is not the best indicator. While salaries and pay scales for jobs are quoted in dollar terms, decisions on whether or not to take a job and how many hours to work at that job depend on what those dollars can buy in terms of goods and services. If all prices in the economy were to double, then $10 would buy only half as much as it used to, so a job paying $10 an hour would seem much less attractive than it did before. For this reason, we instead look at the real wage in the economy. As with real GDP, real here refers to the fact that we are correcting for inflation. It is real wages—not nominal wages—that tell us how an economy is doing. To convert nominal wages to real wages, we need a price index, and because we are looking at how much households can buy with their wages, we usually choose the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as the index. Toolkit: Section 16.1 “The Labor Market” The real wage is the wage corrected for inflation.
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