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Trade Liberalisation and Labour Demand Elasticities: Empirical Evidence for Pakistan


  • Bushra Yasmin

    (Department of Economics, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.)

  • Aliya H. Khan

    (Department of Economics, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.)


In this era of trade liberalisation, when most developing countries are following export-oriented policies, the impact of trade liberalisation on labour markets has become an important area to explore. The experience of trade liberalisation in developing countries is quite varied, but understanding the effects of openness on their labour markets is a complex and demanding task as these countries have undergone significant structural changes and adjustments from 1980s onward. In accordance with standard trade theory, developing countries should specialise in the production of labour-intensive goods, thus increasing the relative demand for this factor. Pakistan’s trade policy has also declared exports as an important and leading sector for employment generation. However, so far, little evidence is available on the issue of trade liberalisation and labour markets which can help work out the trade-labour linkages for Pakistan. In that context, the present study is an attempt to investigate these linkages. Among various paths through which trade liberalisation is channelled to the labour market, one is that of labour demand elasticity. It is expected that trade openness might induce an increase in elasticity via a scale effect due to the increased competition in the output market, and via a substitution effect generated by expanding a firm’s production possibility set to include additional input. The main hypothesis of this study is that trade liberalisation might lead to an increase in labour demand elasticity and is expected to have a favourable impact on the employment generation in Pakistan. The study is carried out for labour engaged in the manufacturing sector in Pakistan, using panel data approach for the years 1970-1995. A labour demand equation is obtained from the solution of a firm’s cost minimisation problem. The impact of trade liberalisation on employment is not restricted to a wage elasticity effect; it also allows for a direct effect with globalisation acting as a demand shifter. Overall, we find a positive significant effect of trade liberalisation on labour demand elasticities. As Pakistan has adopted a stance in favor of trade liberalisation over time, and the effective rate of protection has reduced very sharply since the early 1990s, it is thus revealed from the results that there has been a consequential shift from capital-intensive production to more labour-intensive production that is in keeping with the perceived static comparative advantage, and, in turn, is expected to lead to increased employment generation because of the greater incentives afforded to labour-intensive

Suggested Citation

  • Bushra Yasmin & Aliya H. Khan, 2005. "Trade Liberalisation and Labour Demand Elasticities: Empirical Evidence for Pakistan," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 44(4), pages 1067-1089.
  • Handle: RePEc:pid:journl:v:44:y:2005:i:4:p:1067-1089

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wood, Adrian, 1997. "Openness and Wage Inequality in Developing Countries: The Latin American Challenge to East Asian Conventional Wisdom," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 11(1), pages 33-57, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mohammad Irfan, 2009. "Pakistan’s Wage Structure, during 1990-91–2006-07," PIDE-Working Papers 2009:54, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.
    2. Muhammad Irfan, 2010. "A Review of the Labour Market Research at PIDE 1957-2009," PIDE Books, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, number 2010:1 edited by Rashid Amjad & Aurangzeb A. Hashmi, April.
    3. Mohammad Irfan, 2009. "Pakistan’s Wage Structure, during 1990-91–2006-07," Labor Economics Working Papers 22979, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
    4. Michael Gasiorek, 2007. "Determinants of Productivity in Morocco: The Role of Trade?," Working Papers 716, Economic Research Forum, revised 01 Jan 2007.
    5. Drago Papler & Štefan Bojnec, 2015. "Competitiveness and Factors of Delivery of Electricity," Faculty of Management Koper Monograph Series, University of Primorska, Faculty of Management Koper, number 978-961-266-188-5, August.

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