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A Trade Theorist’s Take on Skilled-Labor Outsourcing

  • Alan V. Deardorff

    (University of Michigan)

Recent concern has attended the phenomenon of skilled-labor outsourcing, in which firms in the U.S. and other advanced countries have drawn upon the services of skilled workers in developing countries for activities that they used to do at home. Motivated by this and the fact that such outsourcing would be hard to explain without technological differences, this paper explores theoretically a simple story of outsourcing in which factor proportions and technology interact across activities performed within industries or firms. The model has a single sector in which a final output is produced from two activities that differ in their intensity of use of skilled and unskilled labor. In one activity, the developed world (North) has a technical advantage. In the other it does not, but a new regime makes it possible to outsource it to the developing world (South). The paper shows that this outsourcing, if the countries continue to diversify, causes the wage of unskilled labor in North to fall below that in South. However, if factor endowments differ enough to lead to specialization, then it becomes possible for both factors in North to gain.

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File URL: http://fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/workingpapers/Papers501-525/r519.pdf
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Paper provided by Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan in its series Working Papers with number 519.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mie:wpaper:519
Contact details of provider: Postal: ANN ARBOR MICHIGAN 48109
Web page: http://fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/

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  1. Deardorff, A.V., 1998. "Fragmentation Across Cones," Papers 98-14, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  2. Davis, Donald R., 1995. "Intra-industry trade: A Heckscher-Ohlin-Ricardo approach," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3-4), pages 201-226, November.
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