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Trade and Worker Deskilling

Author

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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. Tarek Alexander Hassan & Stephan Hollander & Laurence van Lent & Ahmed Tahoun, 2020. "The Global Impact of Brexit Uncertainty," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-332, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    4. Hassan, Tarek & Hollander, Stephan & van Lent, Laurence & Tahoun, Ahmed, 2019. "The Global Impact of Brexit Uncertainty," CEPR Discussion Papers 14253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Holger Breinlich & Elsa Leromain & Dennis Novy & Thomas Sampson, 2022. "The Brexit Vote, Inflation And U.K. Living Standards," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 63(1), pages 63-93, February.
    6. 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).
    7. Sergei Guriev & Elias Papaioannou, 2022. "The Political Economy of Populism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(3), pages 753-832, September.
    8. Dorn, David & Levell, Peter, 2021. "Trade and Inequality in Europe and the US," CEPR Discussion Papers 16780, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Magli, Martina, 2022. "The Spillover Effect of Services Offshoring on Local Labour Markets," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 351, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    10. Borusyak, Kirill & Hull, Peter, 2020. "Non-Random Exposure to Exogenous Shocks: Theory and Applications," CEPR Discussion Papers 15319, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Swati Dhingra & Rebecca Freeman & Hanwei Huang, 2023. "The Impact of Non‐tariff Barriers on Trade and Welfare," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 90(357), pages 140-177, January.
    12. Andrew Mountford & Jonathan Wadsworth, 2023. "‘Good jobs’, training and skilled immigration," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 90(359), pages 851-881, July.
    13. Swati Dhingra & Thomas Sampson, 2022. "Expecting Brexit," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 14(1), pages 495-519, August.
    14. Rachel Griffith & Peter Levell & Agnes Norris Keiller, 2021. "Potential Consequences of Post‐Brexit Trade Barriers for Earnings Inequality in the UK," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 88(352), pages 839-862, October.
    15. 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.
    16. Ron Hira, 2020. "Outsourcing: A Case of Shared Mental Models in Conflict," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 73(3), pages 410-435, August.
    17. Josh De Lyon & Swati Dhingra, 2021. "Real-time updates on the UK economy: trends, expectations and implications from business survey data," CEP Covid-19 Analyses cepcovid-19-026, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    18. Martina Magli, 2022. "The spillover effect of services offshoring on local labour markets," CEP Discussion Papers dp1892, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    19. Javorcik, Beata & Kett, Ben & Stapleton, Katherine & O'Kane, Layla, 2019. "Unravelling Trade Integration: Local Labour Market Effects of the Brexit Vote," CEPR Discussion Papers 14222, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    20. Magli, Martina, 2022. "The spillover effect of services offshoring on local labour markets," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 118048, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    23. Humlum, Anders & Munch, Jakob R. & Rasmussen, Mette, 2023. "What Works for the Unemployed? Evidence from Quasi-Random Caseworker Assignments," IZA Discussion Papers 16033, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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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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