This chart unfortunately plays into the hands of the more nationally minded politicians of the Euro core. The argument can be made (and increasingly is being made) that periphery economies must simply accept the declines in living standards that their non-periphery counterparts have had to accept. Lower living standards in the sense of real disposable income implies either lower wages, or yet more fiscal austerity, or both.If we look across the larger and longer established Euro membership we can see these two patterns being replicated according to country type. Each country shows the cumulative real disposable household income growth for each of its income deciles. The lowest income decile is to the left of each country’s selection, and the highest to the right.
Austria looks to be alarmingly weak – what this actually represents is very little change in nominal disposable income growth, coupled with inflation. Germany, Ireland, most of Italy and the French middle class all experience a decline in their standards of living. In most of these countries, the highest income groups do relatively well.
What stand out are Greece, Portugal and Spain. These economies have benefited from increased standards of living under the Euro (at least, until 2010), as nominal incomes have overcome inflation pressures. There has also been a concentration on improving the lot of the lower income groups in these societies.