I had just a few days back pointed to an article on struggles of Austrian economy. It said ironically the reason for Austrian decline was too much of outward looking. They had gone and expanded big time in Eastern European countries whose people were relatively skilled and just needed investments. Once money came in, they filled in the gaps and started doing better than Austrian counterparts.
However, things differed for Germany. They did not go overboard in East Europe:
Germany’s growth was not similarly affected, for three reasons. To begin with, after the fall of Communism, Austria reoriented its foreign direct investment almost exclusively to Eastern Europe, which accounted for nearly 90% of its FDI outflows. In Germany, just 4% of FDI moved to Eastern Europe in the 1990s, reaching 30% at the turn of the century. As a result, Austria became much more integrated with Eastern Europe.
Second, Germany was richer in skills than Austria. In 1998, the share of the German population with academic degrees was 15%, more than double the Austrian level. German firms did relocate high-skilled work to the east, but not to the extent that Austria did. As a proportion of the workforce, German affiliates in Eastern Europe employed three times as many people with academic degrees as their parent firms did. And German subsidiaries employed 11% more researchers than their parent companies.
Finally, many of the Austrian parent companies were themselves subsidiaries of foreign firms, while German firms were German multinationals, which transplanted their corporate culture to their Central and Eastern European subsidiaries. They employed more German managers relative to local managers, which gave them more control over innovation. Furthermore, most German investments were based on the transfer of an established technology; only 8% of the country’s FDI in the region involved cutting-edge research.
By contrast, Austrian firms adapted their business to the region’s environment and employed more local managers than Austrians. As a result, their subsidiaries were more autonomous in their innovation decisions. There was no mechanism that guaranteed that the knowledge created in a subsidiary also benefited the parent company.
In a new piece by the same author Prof Dalia Marin, she says Germany inequality is lower than US. Guess the reason? It is because German firms relocated work to Eastern Europe and reduced the skill wage premium!