A decade after the global financial crisis struck, a sense of stability is returning across most of the world economy. The IMF’s annual meetings this week take place amid one of the more optimistic atmospheres for a long time. And yet one element of most advanced economies resolutely fails to feel like normal: the persistent weakness of wages. Since 2007, even among countries that have returned to precrisis levels of unemployment, nominal earnings growth remains remarkably weak. This is of more than academic interest. While the causes (and indeed the extent) of the rise of populist politics across Europe and the US can be debated, the sluggishness of wages has almost certainly created a sense that the benefits of the recovery are not being shared equitably. Moreover, there is a sense that automation is coming to take everyone’s job, or at least to shift work round in a way that will push inequality higher. For many working people, the future does not look any happier than the recent...

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