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Labor market institutions, firm-specific skills, and trade patterns

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  • Tang, Heiwai

Abstract

This paper studies how a country's labor market institutions, by affecting workers' skill acquisition, can shape its export patterns. I develop an open-economy model in which workers undertake non-contractible activities to acquire firm-specific skills on the job. In the model, labor market protection raises workers' incentives to acquire firm-specific skills relative to general skills, turning labor laws into a source of comparative advantage. In particular, the model shows that countries with more protective labor laws export relatively more in firm-specific skill-intensive sectors at both the intensive and extensive margins. To test the theoretical predictions, I construct sector proxies for the firm-specific and industry-specific skill intensity by estimating returns to firm tenure and industry tenure for different U.S. manufacturing sectors during the 1974–1993 period. By estimating sector-level gravity equations for 84 countries using the Helpman–Melitz–Rubinstein (2008) framework, I find evidence supporting the predicted effects of labor market institutions at both margins of exports.

Suggested Citation

  • Tang, Heiwai, 2012. "Labor market institutions, firm-specific skills, and trade patterns," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 337-351.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:inecon:v:87:y:2012:i:2:p:337-351
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jinteco.2012.01.001
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    15. Asuyama, Yoko, 2012. "Skill Distribution and Comparative Advantage: A Comparison of China and India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 956-969.
    16. Jacopo Timini & Nicola Cortinovis & Fernando López Vicente, 2020. "The heterogeneous effects of trade agreements with labor provisions (Updated March 2021)," Working Papers 2017, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage, revised Mar 2021.
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    19. Bhaumik, Sumon Kumar & Frensch, Richard & Huber, Stephan, 2021. "Political economy of labour market institutions in a globalised era," GLO Discussion Paper Series 786, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labor market institutions; Margins of trade; Trade patterns; Firm-specific skills;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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