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Seeking shared prosperity through trade

Listed author(s):
  • Cali,Massimiliano
  • Hollweg,Claire Honore
  • Ruppert Bulmer,Elizabeth N.

Increasing the trade integration of developing countries can make a vital contribution to boosting shared prosperity, but it also exposes producers and consumers to exogenous shocks that alter relative prices, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. This paper discusses the short-run effects of trade-related shocks on households to capture the potential welfare impact on the poor. The discussion explores the channels through which trade shocks are transmitted to households in the bottom of the income distribution, namely through consumption, household production, and market-based labor activities. The degree to which price shocks are passed through from borders to point of sale is a key determinant of the gains from trade and the ultimate welfare impact. Trade changes in agriculture directly affect households through their consumption basket. Lower agricultural prices reduce the cost of consumables, but these welfare gains may be offset by lower earnings for households that produce these same goods. Poorer households tend to be net consumers of agricultural products, suggesting a net welfare gain, but agricultural wage workers could suffer from wage cuts. Because poorer households tend to consume relatively fewer nonagricultural products, that is nonessentials, any trade-related shocks to prices of nonagricultural product are likely to be transmitted via labor channels. Despite significant evidence that nonagricultural trade reform ultimately leads to job creation and enhanced productivity, the short-run effects can be mixed. The costs incurred by workers to transition to new jobs slow the adjustment of the economy to a new steady state. Labor mobility costs, which tend to be higher in developing countries and for unskilled workers, reduce the potential gains to trade by diverting labor market adjustment from its most efficient path.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 7314.

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Date of creation: 17 Jun 2015
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:7314
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