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A situation where the wages and salaries actually paid (Ist-Löhne and Ist-Gehälter) increase faster than the rates of pay laid down in collective agreements is described as upward pay drift (positive Lohndrift), and that where they lag behind is called downward pay drift (negative Lohndrift). Pay drift arises when a company, on the basis of a works agreement or individual arrangements with its employees, pays groups of employees or particular individuals more than the rate fixed in the relevant collective agreement. It is difficult in practice to measure pay drift as so defined, since as a rule changes in actual pay are not readily distinguishable from changes which are due to overtime premiums or other special allowances. In Austria, pay drift is determined from the difference between the growth rates of actual earnings and of the collectively agreed pay scale. The difference is called Nettodrift when the comparison is adjusted for working time and Bruttodrift when it is not adjusted for working time; the latter can therefore occur only as a result of fluctuations in working hours. To control pay drift, the bargaining parties have introduced actual-pay clauses since 1959.

Pay drift varies according to the economic and labour market situation. In the early 1970s gross drift in the economy as a whole amounted to 2-3 percentage points, and following the oil crises (mid-1970s and early 1980s) actual earnings lagged behind the increase in collectively agreed rates by about 1 percentage point. Averaged over the 1980s there was an upward pay drift of 0.2 percentage point, and since the beginning of the 1990s there has been a downward pay drift of -0.3 percentage point.

Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.

Page last updated: 14 August, 2009