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Trade and Tasks: An Exploration over Three Decades in Germany


  • Sascha O. Becker
  • Marc-Andreas Muendler


This paper combines representative worker-level data that cover time-varying job-level task characteristics of an economy over a long time span with sector-level bilateral trade data for merchandize and services. We carefully create longitudinally consistent workplace characteristics from the German Qualification and Career Survey 1979-2006 and prepare trade flow statistics from varying sources. Four main facts emerge: (i) intermediate inputs constitute a major share of imports, and their relevance grows especially in the early decade; (ii) the German workforce increasingly specializes in workplace activities and job requirements that are typically considered non-offshorable, mainly within and not between sectors and occupations; (iii) the imputed activity and job requirement content of German imports grows relatively more intensive in work characteristics typically considered offshorable; and (iv) labour-market institutions at German trade partners are largely unrelated to the changing task content of German imports but German sector-level outcomes exhibit some covariation consistent with faster task offshoring in sectors exposed to lower labour-market tightness. We discuss policy implications of these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Sascha O. Becker & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2014. "Trade and Tasks: An Exploration over Three Decades in Germany," NBER Working Papers 20739, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20739
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri & Greg C. Wright, 2016. "Immigration, Offshoring, and American Jobs," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Economics of International Migration, chapter 4, pages 117-151 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    2. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning & Anna Salomons, 2009. "Job Polarization in Europe," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 58-63, May.
    3. Becker, Sascha O. & Ekholm, Karolina & Muendler, Marc-Andreas, 2013. "Offshoring and the onshore composition of tasks and skills," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 91-106.
    4. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    5. Edward P. Lazear & Kathryn L. Shaw, 2007. "Personnel Economics: The Economist's View of Human Resources," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
    6. A. Colin Cameron & Jonah B. Gelbach & Douglas L. Miller, 2011. "Robust Inference With Multiway Clustering," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(2), pages 238-249, April.
    7. Boeri, Tito & Macis, Mario, 2010. "Do unemployment benefits promote or hinder job reallocation?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 109-125, September.
    8. Francesca Mazzolari & Giuseppe Ragusa, 2013. "Spillovers from High-Skill Consumption to Low-Skill Labor Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 74-86, March.
    9. Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2008. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1978-1997, December.
    10. Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2006. "Technical Change, Job Tasks, and Rising Educational Demands: Looking outside the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 235-270, April.
    11. Robert C. Feenstra & Robert E. Lipsey & Haiyan Deng & Alyson C. Ma & Hengyong Mo, 2005. "World Trade Flows: 1962-2000," NBER Working Papers 11040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
    13. Martin Schindler & Mariya Aleksynska, 2011. "Labor Market Regulations in Low-, Middle- and High-Income Countries; A New Panel Database," IMF Working Papers 11/154, International Monetary Fund.
    14. John E. DiNardo & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303.
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    1. L’Allemagne en laboratoire de la mondialisation
      by ? in D'un champ l'autre on 2014-12-26 18:50:00


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    Cited by:

    1. James Harrigan & Ariell Reshef & Farid Toubal, 2016. "The March of the Techies: Technology, Trade, and Job Polarization in France, 1994-2007," Working Papers 2016-15, CEPII research center.
    2. Christian Dippel & Robert Gold & Stephan Heblich & Rodrigo Pinto, 2017. "Instrumental Variables and Causal Mechanisms: Unpacking the Effect of Trade on Workers and Voters," CESifo Working Paper Series 6816, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Pflüger, Michael P. & Tabuchi, Takatoshi, 2016. "Comparative Advantage and Agglomeration of Economic Activity," IZA Discussion Papers 10273, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Naudé, Wim & Nagler, Paula, 2017. "Technological Innovation and Inclusive Growth in Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 11194, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Gordon H. Hanson, 2017. "What Do We Really Know about Offshoring? Industries and Countries in Global Production Sharing," Development Working Papers 416, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano, revised 21 Feb 2017.
    6. repec:krk:eberjl:v:5:y:2017:i:2:p:9-25 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Irlacher, Michael & Baumgarten, Daniel & Koch, Michael, 2017. "Short- versus long-run effects of offshoring when sectors are heterogeneous," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168272, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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