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Colombia: Urban Wages
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Income Distribution > Urban Wages


In spite of some modest and erratic improvements in the mid1960s, and again during the early 1970s, real wages for unskilled construction workers in Bogotá increased by less than 10 percent during the 1960-77 period as a whole. From 1977 to 1979, however, they increased appreciably, although other data suggest that these gains may have been lost between 1978 and 1981.

The wages of blue-collar workers in manufacturing jumped abruptly between 1960 and 1963, accompanied by a smaller increase for white-collar workers. During the remainder of the 1960s, wages for both types of workers showed modest gains, followed by a loss of these gains during the 1970-76 period and then an upturn until the end of the decade. Relative to their real wages at the beginning of the 1970s, both blue- and white-collar workers were earning at a lower rate in 1981. If fringe benefits are taken into account, their situation appears to have improved during 1964-70 more than at other times and deteriorated less during 1970-76. Over the long term, the pattern showed cyclical fluctuations around a flat trend.

Data confirm the sluggish growth of wages and total earnings of manufacturing workers since the late 1970s. The resulting view that the working class suffered, however, fails to distinguish among groups within the working class. Even in manufacturing, the poorer, unskilled worker did better than white-collar or skilled workers. Moreover, wages and total earnings increased faster in smaller enterprises. Despite the rapid per capita income growth during the 1970s, the income of persons with jobs did not increase much, and those who were better off at the beginning of the decade fared even worse; conversely, those who had minimal remuneration at the beginning of the decade significantly improved their situation.

In summary, according to the evidence from occupational data, during the 1970s poor agricultural workers and small farmers increased their shares of national income. Among urban workers, the poor and the unskilled did better than those employed in skilled or formal-sector occupations. Consumption of luxuries indicated substantial improvements in the position of the rich relative to the middle class. But the share of income going to the middle class fell.

Data as of December 1988

Last Updated: December 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Colombia was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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