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Trade and Worker Deskilling

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  • Rui Costa
  • Swati Dhingra
  • Stephen Machin

Abstract

This paper presents new evidence on international trade and worker outcomes. It examines a big world event that produced an unprecedentedly large shock to the UK exchange rate. In the 24 hours in June 2016 during which the UK electorate unexpectedly voted to leave the European Union, the value of sterling plummeted. It recorded the biggest depreciation that has occurred in any of the world’s four major currencies since the collapse of Bretton Woods. Exploiting this variation, the paper studies the impact of trade on wages and worker training. Wages and training fell for workers employed in sectors where the intermediate import price rose by more as a consequence of the sterling depreciation. Calibrating the estimated wage elasticity with respect to intermediate import prices to theory uncovers evidence of a production complementarity between workers and intermediate imports. This provides new direct evidence that, in the modern world of global value chains, it is changes in the cost of intermediate imports that act as a driver of the impact of globalization on worker welfare. The episode studied and the findings add to widely expressed, growing concerns about poor productivity performance relating to skills and to patterns of real wage stagnation that are plaguing contemporary labour markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Rui Costa & Swati Dhingra & Stephen Machin, 2019. "Trade and Worker Deskilling," NBER Working Papers 25919, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25919
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    Cited by:

    1. Holger Breinlich & Elsa Leromain & Dennis Novy & Thomas Sampson, 2019. "Exchange Rates and Consumer Prices: Evidence from Brexit," CESifo Working Paper Series 8001, CESifo.
    2. Bloom, Nicholas & Bunn, Philip & Chen, Scarlet & Mizen, Paul & Smietanka, Pawel & Thwaites, Gregory, 2019. "The impact of Brexit on UK firms," Bank of England working papers 818, Bank of England.
    3. Hassan, Tarek Alexander & Hollander, Stephan & Tahoun, Ahmed & van Lent, Laurence, 2019. "The Global Impact of Brexit Uncertainty," CEPR Discussion Papers 14253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Breinlich, Holger & Leromain, Elsa & Novy, Dennis & Sampson, Thomas, 2020. "Voting with their money: Brexit and outward investment by UK firms," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 124(C).
    5. Kirill Borusyak & Peter Hull, 2020. "Non-Random Exposure to Exogenous Shocks: Theory and Applications," NBER Working Papers 27845, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Guriev, Sergei & Papaioannou, Elias, 2020. "The Political Economy of Populism," CEPR Discussion Papers 14433, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Swati Dhingra & Rebecca Freeman & Hanwei Huang, 2021. "The impact of non-tariff barriers on trade and welfare," CEP Discussion Papers dp1742, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    8. Facundo Albornoz & Jake Bradley & Silvia Sonderegger, 2020. "The Brexit referendum and the rise in hate crime; conforming to the new norm," Discussion Papers 2020-12, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    9. Ron Hira, 2020. "Outsourcing: A Case of Shared Mental Models in Conflict," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 73(3), pages 410-435, August.
    10. Javorcik, Beata & Kett, Benjamin & O'Kane, Layla & Stapleton, Katherine, 2019. "Unravelling Trade Integration: Local Labour Market Effects of the Brexit Vote," CEPR Discussion Papers 14222, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Beata Javorcik & Ben Kett & Layla O'Kane, 2019. "The Brexit Vote and Labour Demand: Evidence from Online Job Postings," Economics Series Working Papers 878, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    12. Halmai, Péter, 2020. "A dezintegráció gazdaságtana. A brexit esete [The economics of disintegration. The case of Brexit]," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(9), pages 837-877.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F31 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Exchange
    • F66 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Labor
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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