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Unemployment and Trade Liberalisation

  • Paul Oslington

In contrast to the focus of the public debate over trade liberalisation on job losses there is a widespread view among economists that unemployment and trade issues should be considered separately. This view cannot be justified theoretically, and ignores the growing number of general equilibrium trade models with unemployment. In a simple model with an exogenous wage floor, trade liberalisation can lead to either gains or losses depending on the production technology, severity of the factor market distortion, factor intensities of the industries and conditions in trading partners. Definite results can be derived about gains from liberalising trade with lower wage floors, about relative abundance of the unemployed factor dampening losses when trade is liberalised, and about gains when the good which uses the unemployed factor is exported. The theoretical models are then linked to the policy modelling literature, using the example of recent Australian controversies over liberalisation of trade in automobiles and textiles. It is argued that trade liberalisation would be better advanced by including endogenous employment in trade policy simulation exercises and by discussing employment effects rather than brushing them aside as temporary adjustment problems or regional difficulties. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2005.

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal World Economy.

Volume (Year): 28 (2005)
Issue (Month): 8 (08)
Pages: 1139-1155

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Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:28:y:2005:i:8:p:1139-1155
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