Industrial de-licensing, trade liberalization, and skill upgrading in India
We investigate the relationship between industrial de-licensing, trade liberalization, and skill upgrading during the 1980s and 1990s among manufacturing plants in India. We use a unique dataset on India's industrial licensing regime to test whether industrial de-licensing during the 1980s and 1990s played a role in skill upgrading, as measured by the employment and wagebill shares of white-collar workers. In addition, we assess the relative contribution of industrial de-licensing and trade liberalization to skill upgrading. We identify two main channels through which industrial de-licensing affects skill upgrading: capital- and output-skill complementarities. Using both difference-in-differences as well as regression discontinuity techniques, we find two important results. First, after controlling for the size-based exemption rule that determined whether or not a plant faced licensing restrictions, industrial de-licensing during the 1980s appears to have increased the relative demand for skilled workers via capital- and output-skill complementarities. Capital- and output-skill complementarities exist for plants in both licensed and de-licensed industries but were stronger in de-licensed industries during the 1980s, prior to India's massive trade liberalization reforms in 1991. Second, regardless of de-licensing, capital- and output-skill complementarities are generally weaker after trade was liberalized during the early 1990s. Together, capital- and output-skill complementarities contributed 75% (57%) and 31% (29%), respectively, of the growth in the employment and wagebill shares of white-collar workers in de-licensed (licensed) industries before trade was liberalized. After trade liberalization, these contributions were smaller. This suggests that trade liberalization may not have played a major role in raising the relative demand for skilled labor during the early 1990s.
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