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Trade and Tasks: An Exploration over Three Decades in Germany

Listed author(s):
  • 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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 20739.

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Date of creation: Dec 2014
Publication status: published as Sascha O. Becker & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2015. "Trade and tasks: an exploration over three decades in Germany," Economic Policy, Volume 30, Issue 84, Pp. 589 - 641
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20739
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  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.
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  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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