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Wage-Price Spiral


The Wage-Price Spiral is an economic phenomenon in which rising wages lead to higher production costs, causing an increase in the prices of goods and services. As a result, workers demand higher wages to cope with these higher living costs. This loop of rising wages and prices creates a continuous inflationary cycle that can be difficult to control.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Wage-Price Spiral” is:/weɪdʒ praɪs ˈspaɪrəl/Here’s a breakdown of the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols:- /w/ – voiceless “w” sound- /eɪ/ – “a” sound, like in “make”- /dʒ/ – “j” sound, like in “judge”- /p/ – voiceless “p” sound- /r/ – “r” sound- /aɪ/ – “i” sound, like in “price”- /s/ – voiceless “s” sound- /ˈ/ – primary stress mark- /p/ – another voiceless “p” sound- /aɪ/ – another “i” sound, like in “price”- /r/ – another “r” sound- /ə/ – schwa sound, like in “sofa”- /l/ – “l” sound

Key Takeaways

  • The Wage-Price Spiral is a macroeconomic phenomenon in which rising wages lead to higher prices for goods and services, which further cause wages to increase, resulting in a continuous loop of wage and price increases.
  • This spiral can be triggered by various factors such as high demand for goods and services, supply limitations, or government policies that lead to inflationary pressures.
  • The Wage-Price Spiral is challenging to control once it has started, often requiring coordinated fiscal and monetary policies, such as reducing government spending or increasing interest rates, to combat inflationary pressures and ultimately slow down the spiral.


The Wage-Price Spiral is an important concept in business and finance because it describes a phenomenon where wages and prices rise continually in a self-sustaining, cyclical pattern. This pattern typically starts with an increase in the cost of production, which leads companies to raise prices. Subsequently, workers demand higher wages to keep up with rising living costs, thereby prompting businesses to further increase prices to maintain profit margins. In turn, this process causes inflation, which can destabilize an economy if left unchecked. Understanding the Wage-Price Spiral helps policymakers and business strategists make informed decisions to prevent or mitigate economic inflation while promoting overall economic stability.


The Wage-Price Spiral is an essential economic concept that helps not only in understanding the relationship between wages and inflation but also in formulating policies to ensure sustainable economic growth. The primary purpose of this concept is to analyze the cyclical pattern arising from the interplay between wages and prices in an economy. Often observed during periods of high inflation, the wage-price spiral describes the pattern of repeated increases in wages which result in higher production costs, subsequently causing a surge in the prices of goods and services. This, in turn, could lead to employees demanding higher wages to counter the decreasing purchasing power of their salaries, perpetuating a vicious upward spiral of wages and prices.

By recognizing the Wage-Price Spiral, policymakers, and business leaders can proactively assess and address the underlying factors driving this economic phenomenon. For instance, central banks could implement monetary policies to control inflation, such as raising interest rates or adjusting reserve requirements, to break the cycle and stabilize the economy. Additionally, businesses can explore ways to increase productivity and mitigate cost-push inflation, thereby reducing the pressure to raise wages and prices. A thorough understanding of the wage-price spiral allows for the appropriate response to inflationary pressures and helps maintain a balanced and healthy economic environment.


The Wage-Price Spiral refers to a situation in which wages and prices continuously increase, with each feeding into the other, creating a vicious circle of inflation. Here are three real-world examples:

1. The 1970s U.S. Stagflation: During the 1970s, the United States experienced a period of economic stagnation, which was characterized by high unemployment and inflation. One of the factors that contributed to this stagflation was the wage-price spiral. As the cost of living increased, workers demanded higher wages, which then led to higher production costs and ultimately higher prices for goods and services. The increasing prices fed back into higher wage demands, creating a cycle of escalating inflation.

2. The UK in the 1970s: Britain also experienced a wage-price spiral during the 1970s due to a combination of factors, including the global oil crisis, rising inflation, and generous wage settlements. The power of trade unions in the UK contributed to significant wage increases, which then drove up the prices of goods and services. The increasing cost of living led to further wage demands, perpetuating the spiral and culminating in the Winter of Discontent in 1978-79.

3. Brazil in the 1980s and 1990s: Brazil faced an extreme case of the wage-price spiral from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. The country experienced hyperinflation, which peaked at an annual rate of nearly 2500% in 1993. As prices skyrocketed, workers demanded higher wages to keep up with the rising cost of living. These higher wages, in turn, contributed to even higher production costs and prices for goods and services. Brazil’s hyperinflation crisis was only brought under control with the introduction of the Plano Real, a new economic stabilization plan, in 1994.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Wage-Price Spiral?

The Wage-Price Spiral is an economic phenomenon where rising wages lead to higher prices of goods and services, which then leads to further wage increases as workers demand compensation for the increased cost of living. This ongoing cycle results in persistent inflation.

What factors contribute to the Wage-Price Spiral?

Key factors contributing to the Wage-Price Spiral include strong labor unions, labor shortages, a robust economy with increased consumer demand, and existing inflationary pressures.

How does the Wage-Price Spiral affect businesses?

The Wage-Price Spiral affects businesses by increasing their production costs due to higher wages. This may lead to reduced profits, decreased competitiveness in the market, and potential job cuts or outsourcing to manage expenses.

Can the Wage-Price Spiral be controlled?

Yes, the Wage-Price Spiral can be managed through various policies by governments and central banks. These include controlling inflation, implementing restrictions on wage growth, using monetary policy instruments, and promoting economic stability and productivity growth.

How does the Wage-Price Spiral impact consumers?

Consumers are directly affected by the Wage-Price Spiral as the continuing process of rising wages and increased prices results in a higher cost of living. If not controlled, this can eventually lead to reduced purchasing power, impacting an individual’s quality of life.

What role do labor unions play in the Wage-Price Spiral?

Labor unions have a significant role in the Wage-Price Spiral because they often negotiate for higher wages on behalf of their members. If successful, this leads to higher costs for businesses, which may trigger price increases and eventually result in the Wage-Price Spiral.

Can the Wage-Price Spiral lead to an economic recession?

In extreme cases, an unchecked Wage-Price Spiral may lead to stagnation or recession by eroding a country’s competitiveness, discouraging investments, and negatively impacting productivity. Central banks and governments typically intervene to prevent these outcomes through various policy measures.

Related Finance Terms

  • Inflation
  • Cost-push inflation
  • Demand-pull inflation
  • Collective bargaining
  • Real wage

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