Salaries in large companies grow at the fastest pace since 2008, but still lag behind inflation | Economy

Seat factory in Martorell (Barcelona)
Seat factory in Martorell (Barcelona)

The average salaries of large companies, those with a turnover of more than six million euros, grew by 5.5% in April, the largest increase in 14 years, and remained on the rise for the fourth consecutive month, according to statistics Sales, employment and wages in large companies published this Wednesday by the State Tax Administration Agency (AEAT). This is the highest increase since the one that took place in December 2008 (+5.8%), and is more than one point higher than that registered last March (+4.1%). However, this increase does not match the increase in prices, which in May was 8.7%, so there has also been a decrease in the purchasing power of these employees.

Due to its upward inertia, this report is in tune with the collective bargaining statistics of the Ministry of Labor, in which it is determined that the wages agreed in agreements registered until April, and with economic effects in the fourth month of the year (the last available), rose 2.40%, slightly above what they did in the month of March (2.36%), but also very far from the pace set by inflation. It is, in addition, a lower increase in percentage terms than the one agreed by the Government and unions (the employers distanced themselves) for the minimum interprofessional salary of 2022 (3.6%), and that is in line with the approach of the unions for the renewal of the Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining (AENC), which is stopped.

In the AEAT document, in which the total number of companies whose turnover exceeds six million euros (and which would be around more than 9,900, according to 2019 data) does not appear, it is also detailed that the growth in the number of recipients of these labor incomes continues to remain “stable”, after having increased by one tenth in April compared to February and March (6.7%). A boost that has led to the total number being 2.2% higher than it was in February 2020, the last pre-pandemic month.

In the same way, it is stated that this concatenation of salary increases “reveals the change produced in salary increases since the beginning of the year, something closely associated with the price increases that have been observed since the end of last year.” The table also shows the evolution of the average gross return according to the sector to which these large companies belong. Thus, those framed in services present the highest increase (+5.9%), ahead of agriculture (+5.5%), industry (+5.5%) and construction (2.8%) .

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However, it is an accounting with nuances, since the increase in the average wage can occur for two reasons: either due to an increase in payroll wages, or due to the change in the composition of employment. “This occurs when companies fire workers with the lowest incomes, and keep those who earn more. Or when they hire more technical profiles and, therefore, with higher salaries”, explains Carlos Martín, head of the economic cabinet of CC OO. Although this distinction is not made in the Tax Agency report, in Martín’s opinion, it would be the second reason that prevails, since large companies “continue to outsource tasks while hiring qualified workers, which drives up wages medium”.

The change in the composition of employment did have an influence in 2008 when the financial crisis broke out, since Spanish companies destroyed up to 900,000 jobs that year, and among the workers affected were, mainly, those with the lowest wages and who were less expensive to fire, which caused an increase in the average salary by keeping the best paid. The situation at the moment is the opposite of what it was then, since the number of new contracts has only increased -there are already close to eight million in five months-, and the number of Social Security affiliates has risen to above what was before the outbreak of the pandemic and has broken the barrier of 20 million.

Despite the growth of salaries within these companies, inflation continues at much higher values ​​-even the underlying inflation-, so the loss of purchasing power of employees in these companies is added to the rest of the workers. Taking the variation in the consumer price index (CPI) as a reference, prices rose by an average of 7.95% between the months of January and April compared to the same period in 2021; while salaries in large companies only did so by 3.65% for this same range.


The OECD cuts its growth projection for Spain to 4.1% in 2022 due to high inflation, and also estimates that real wages (discounting inflation) in Spain will fall by 4.4% in 2022 compared to last year , being the second highest drop, only behind Greece (-6.9%), according to projections released by the agency this Wednesday.

The absence of an income agreement, and the inability of unions and employers to agree on a roadmap to guide the collective bargaining processes in the next three years have clouded social dialogue. To the point that this Thursday, the UGT and CC OO centrals will transfer the 1,500 trade unionists who make up the blocked negotiating tables, and who will meet in Madrid, the strategy with which to raise the tension of these (dis)encounters. His will is that the salary increase for the next three years is at least 3.5% in 2022; 2.5% in 2023 and 2% in 2024; in addition to introducing a salary review clause.

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