This article assesses the effects of combining fiscal austerity with policies aimed at reducing labour costs and, in doing so, sheds new light on current policy debates. Taking a global perspective, the authors explore the aggregation problem by proposing a stylized analytical macro-model with explicit distribution dynamics. In this framework, flexibilization policies that suppress the labour share trigger global feedbacks that result in a downward spiral, with contraction even in export-led economies. The initial gains of more competitive economies are shown to be ephemeral. In the long term, the world economy is essentially wage-led and responds positively to coordinated Keynesian stimuli.