March 2001

IZA DP No. 267: The Distribution of Wages in Transition Countries

This paper seeks to document and analyse changes in the distribution of wages and employment in the transition countries since the collapse of communism. Most countries experienced an increase in wage inequality during the initial shock of the transition. Proximate causes of this increase seem to be sectoral shifts in employment and increasing inter-industry wage differentials. In Eastern Europe, where economic growth has restarted, there have been further increases in income inequality. These changes are arguably the best guide to future trends in the wage distribution. Taking the case of Poland, rising inequality appears to be entirely accounted for by an increased incidence of workless households. This rise in workless households derives from two phenomena: rising participation in post-compulsory education and earlier retirement. Also in Poland, though there is no change in hourly wage inequality, structural change has had clear impacts of the distribution of wages with increased wage premia to education, to growing sectors and geographically advantaged regions in the economy and to senior occupations.