key topic

How does trade policy affect the labor market?

Trade policy defines the laws related to the exchange of goods or services involved in trade between different countries, including taxes, subsidies, and import/export regulations.

  • Trade and labor markets: Lessons from China’s rise

    The China Shock has challenged economists’ benign view of how trade integration affects labor markets in developed countries

    David H. Autor, February 2018
    Economists have long recognized that free trade has the potential to raise countries’ living standards. But what applies to a country as a whole need not apply to all its citizens. Workers displaced by trade cannot change jobs costlessly, and by reshaping skill demands, trade integration is likely to be permanently harmful to some workers and permanently beneficial to others. The “China Shock”—denoting China’s rapid market integration in the 1990s and its accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001—has given new, unwelcome empirical relevance to these theoretical insights.
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  • How does international trade affect household welfare?

    Households can benefit from international trade as it lowers the prices of consumer goods

    Beyza Ural Marchand, August 2017
    Imported products tend to have lower prices than locally produced ones for a variety of reasons, including lower labor costs and better technology in the exporting country. The reduced prices may lead to wage losses for individuals who work in the production of a local version of the imported item. On the other hand, lower prices may be beneficial to households if the cheaper product is in their consumption basket. These welfare gains through consumption, on average, are found to be larger in magnitude than the wage effect for some developing countries.
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  • International trade and economic insecurity

    Trade can increase economic insecurity for some workers while increasing stability for others

    Mine Z. Senses, May 2017
    Whether or not international trade exposes workers to economic insecurity depends on the nature of the trade exposure of the firm, or industry, in which the worker is employed. Import-competing industries experience higher levels of risk to workers’ incomes and employment, while firms that import intermediate production stages (“offshoring”) display bigger employment responses to small changes in workers’ wages, and are more likely to shut down home factories. But offshoring also helps firms weather economic shocks. Offshoring firms are more likely to survive and provide greater employment stability to their workers.
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  • The effects of privatization on exports and jobs

    Can the privatization of state-owned enterprises generate a virtuous cycle between exports and employment?

    Yasuyuki Todo, November 2016
    The privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOE) in transition economies has often been found to improve employment and productivity of privatized SOEs, despite policymakers’ fears regarding possible job cuts. This positive effect can be enhanced if privatization also promotes firms’ exports. A recent firm-level analysis of China reveals that privatization has indeed a positive effect on export propensity, employment, and productivity in both the short and long term. The effect mostly stems from changes in firms’ attitudes about profits and risks due to competitive pressure.
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  • Do economic reforms hurt or help the informal labor market?

    The evidence is mixed on whether and how economic reforms benefit informal labor

    Saibal Kar, June 2016
    The evidence is mixed on whether informal labor in developing countries benefits from trade and labor market reforms. Reforms lead to higher wages and improved employment conditions in the informal sector in some cases, and to the opposite effect in others. At a cross-country level, lifting trade protection boosts informal-sector employment. The direction and size of the impacts on informal-sector employment and wages are determined by capital mobility and the interactions between trade and labor market reforms and public policies, such as monitoring the formal sector. To guarantee best practice policymakers need to take these interdependencies into account.
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  • Trade liberalization and poverty reduction

    Trade can reduce poverty when accompanied by appropriate policies and institutions

    Devashish Mitra, June 2016
    Economic growth is essential, though not sufficient, for poverty reduction in developing countries. Research based on many different approaches and including both cross-
country and intra-country studies shows that international trade can contribute to economic growth, and thus can help many poor people escape poverty. However, the domestic environment has to be conducive to realizing the poverty-reduction benefits of increased trade. Complementary domestic policies and institutions needed include regulations that foster labor mobility, adequate financial development, and good public infrastructure.
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