The declining labour income share

The labour income share is a key inequality measure, and an SDG indicator. The share of total income benefiting workers is declining globally.

The global labour income share has declined substantially between 2004 and 2017. In parallel, the share of income earned by capital owners has been on the rise. This has important consequences, as capital income tends to favour the well-off. Using the first-ever internationally comparable dataset on countries’ labour shares, we can analyse its global evolution.

During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the labour share jumped upwards. This does not imply that wages and labour income increased. Instead, profits – a form of capital income – dropped faster than labour income. After this temporary blip, the labour income share declined far below the pre-crisis levels. As a consequence in 2017, the share of GDP earned by labour was 51.4%.

The global labour income share is declining.

The Sustainable Development Goals include the labour share as an indicator. For more information on the new labour share estimates please check the methodological paper.


  • Roger is an Economist in the Data Production and Analysis Unit of the ILO Department of Statistics. He develops and maintains the ILO modelled estimates.

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