Marianne Bertrand, Chang-Tai Hsieh, Nick Tsivanidis, 20 October 2021

Changes in contract labour regulation were introduced in India in the late 1940s. The hope was that controlling whether firms could downsize would reduce mass job losses as large British companies left the country post-independence. This column explores the effect of the Industrial Disputes Act on firms of different sizes. The authors find that smaller firms did not see much change, but larger firms did employ fewer contract workers as a result. However, this effect was driven by firms exploiting a loophole, rather than the law itself.

Willem Thorbecke, 15 October 2021

During the COVID-19 pandemic many countries experienced difficulty obtaining the semiconductors that are vital for smartphones, computers, cars, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and many other applications. This column looks at how Asia gained comparative advantage in this sector and identifies lessons for countries seeking to promote domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

Alessandra Bonfiglioli, 08 October 2021

Robots and offshoring are blamed for destroying manufacturing jobs in advanced economies. But could automation also be a way to make domestic manufacturing more competitive? If so, those outsourced jobs may return. Alessandra Bonfiglioli tells Tim Phillips why there may be reasons to welcome our new robot overlords.

Read more about the research discussed and download the free discussion paper:
Bonfiglioli, A, Crinò, R, Gancia, G and Papadakis, I. 2021. 'Robots, Offshoring and Welfare'. CEPR

Nuno Limão, Yang Xu, 07 August 2021

Production is increasingly specialised, with firms concentrating workers on certain tasks that take advantage of outsourced intermediate inputs. This column uses a new framework where firms can adopt intermediate-intensive technologies to study the relationship between globalisation and specialisation, and its implications for the labour share and income. It finds that an expansion in market size such as that resulting from globalisation increases production specialisation, decreases labour cost shares, and increases profit concentration.

Xinshen Diao, Mia Ellis, Margaret McMillan, Dani Rodrik, 01 March 2021

Before Covid-19 struck, many economies in sub-Saharan Africa were expanding rapidly – faster than at any time since independence. Yet African growth accelerations were anomalous when viewed from the perspective of comparative development patterns; structural changes were accompanied by declining within-sector productivity growth in modern sectors. This column explores this anomaly in the context of African manufacturing using newly created firm-level panel data for Tanzania and Ethiopia. In both countries, there is a sharp dichotomy between larger firms that exhibit superior productivity performance but do not expand employment much, and small firms that absorb employment but do not experience any productivity growth. These patterns appear to be related to technological advances in global manufacturing which are making it more capital intensive.

Katherine Stapleton, Michael Webb, 12 December 2020

There has been much speculation that automation in high-income countries will lead to reshoring of production from lower-income countries or further reduce offshoring. Using rich data on Spanish manufacturing firms between 1990 and 2016, this column studies how automation in Spanish firms affected imports and multinational activity involving lower-income countries. It shows that, contrary to the typical assumption, the deployment of robots in Spanish manufacturing firms actually caused them to increase offshoring to lower-income countries. This effect was mainly caused by firms starting to newly offshore as a consequence of automation.

Peter Klenow, Huiyu Li, 18 August 2020

There is much concern that the Covid-19 crisis may be particularly tough for relatively young firms to survive. Given that much innovation is attributed to young firms, this could then harm overall productivity. This column uses the dynamics of various firms’ market shares in order to infer their growth contributions. Compared to studies focusing on patents and R&D spending, the authors find a much bigger role for new and young firms in terms of accounting for productivity growth. Protecting young firms is therefore essential to mitigating the productivity damage of Covid-19.

Teresa Fort, Justin Pierce, Peter Schott, 18 August 2020

Although it is well documented that US manufacturing employment has been falling since 1979, the causes of this trend are still unclear. This column argues that examining how and where the decline in US manufacturing employment occurs provides important insights in this regard. Using US Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Business Database, it highlights three important trends post 1979 which suggest substantial increases in labour productivity, and an evolution of US manufacturing in line with US comparative advantage. 

David Martínez Turégano, Robert Marschinski, 11 August 2020

The EU’s falling share in global manufacturing has fuelled concerns about an overall loss of competitiveness. However, sectoral idiosyncrasies are strong and advise against a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy intervention. This column uses the World Input-Output Tables to decompose the value added for manufacturing value chains and study the drivers of EU’s relative decline. Competitiveness concerns are most warranted for electronics, a key sector for productivity and innovation. The EU’s global share in electronics has fallen even more than in total manufacturing, without evidence that specialisation in other segments of this value chain could significantly mitigate the trend.

Ayça Tekin-Koru, 14 May 2020

The strict and prolonged age-specific containment measures in Turkey have both reduced infection/death rates and enabled less strict restrictions for the lower-risk groups. This column reviews Turkey’s response and examines the real-time effects of the COVID-19 crisis on production in Turkey. If finds that the targeted containment measures appear to have helped reduce a contraction in production that could have been much worse with a uniform lockdown. It also finds that the major brunt of the health crisis in terms of its human costs has been borne by the working class.

Torfinn Harding, Radek Stefanski, Gerhard Toews, 29 April 2020

Due to the collapse in the price of oil, oil-exporting economies are experiencing a huge loss of foreign revenues. This column argues that this may create a window of opportunity to transition away from resource dependence by expanding the tradable goods sector, hence diversifying the economies. Assuming symmetric economic responses for booms and busts and relying on estimates for unexpected giant resource discoveries which predict an appreciation of the real exchange rate and a contraction of the manufacturing sector, the current drop in the oil price may lead to a boom in manufacturing.

Andrea Ariu, Florian Mayneris, Mathieu Parenti, 06 February 2020

Many large and successful firms sell both goods and services; yet economists and policymakers continue to consider the two as distinct sectors subject to their own market adjustments and specific policies. Based on Belgian data, this column argues that the most successful manufacturing firms thrive through selling services that are associated with their goods. Services increase the appeal of a firm’s products, thus allowing it to sell more and at higher prices in international markets. Considering goods and services separately in trade agreement negotiations is likely to miss part of the business and welfare gains and losses. 

Ufuk Akcigit, Yusuf Emre Akgündüz, Seyit Mümin Cilasun, Elif Ozcan-Tok, Fatih Yılmaz, 27 November 2019

Numerous empirical studies have shown a decrease in business dynamism in the US and other high-income countries in the last decades. This column investigates the case of the Turkish manufacturing sector. Results indicate that business dynamism in the sector has declined since 2012. Market concentration and exit rates have risen, and new business creation, the labour share in output and economic activities of young firms have fallen. Using an endogenous growth framework, it argues that the inability of follower firms to credibly challenge market leaders is a likely reason, brought on by a lack of access to finance.

Christoph Boehm, Aaron Flaaen, Nitya Pandalai-Nayar, 15 August 2019

What has caused the rapid decline in US manufacturing employment in recent decades? This column uses novel data to investigate the role of US multinationals and finds that they were a key driver behind the job losses. Insights from a theoretical framework imply that a reduction in the costs of foreign sourcing led firms to increase offshoring, and to shed labour.

Fariha Kamal, 07 July 2019

‘Factoryless’ goods producing entities outsource physical transformation activities while retaining ownership of the intellectual property and control of sales to customers. Using 2012 data from the US Census Bureau, this column provides a new conceptual definition of factoryless activity. It also compares factoryless goods producer firms to service providers outside the manufacturing sector, and hybrid manufacturers to traditional manufacturers within the manufacturing sector. The analysis reveals several meaningful correlations between factoryless status at the firm level and conceptual variables such as employment mix, innovation, and importing activities.

Liu Yang, Bin Ni, 21 May 2019

Concerns have been raised that outward foreign direct investment may reduce domestic employment and lead to the ‘hollowing-out’ of the manufacturing industries at home. This column uses a unique dataset of Japanese firms’ overseas activities to show that going abroad does not necessarily lead to a reduction of domestic employment. Investment by Japanese firms into other Asian countries has a positive impact on domestic job creation and a negative impact on job destruction, whereas the impact of investment into European and North American countries is negative for both job creation and destruction in Japan.

Philipp Ager, Benedikt Herz, 16 May 2019

The transition from high to low fertility rates is regarded as one of the most important determinants of sustainable long-run growth. But despite its importance, there is still an ongoing debate about its causes and timing. This column demonstrates that a sustained shift from agriculture to manufacturing contributed to the fertility decline in the American South at the turn of the 20th century. 

Simone Moriconi, Giovanni Peri, Dario Pozzoli, 24 February 2019

Firms’ offshoring decisions depend on the size of entry costs in target countries. But the institutional and policy determinants of these costs have received little empirical attention. This column uses data on 2,000 Danish manufacturing firms to explore how costs of entry affect offshoring decisions. Higher levels of labour market rigidity, credit risk, and corruption all lower the probability of offshoring to a given country, while immigrant networks within the firm increase the likelihood of offshoring to their home countries. 

Bernhard Michel, Caroline Hambÿe, Bart Hertveldt, 21 January 2019

Domestic value creation is shaped by how and to what extent economies integrate into global value chains. This column argues that further insights can be gained by distinguishing export-oriented and domestic market firms in standard indicators of global value chain integration and participation. Using data for Belgium, it documents that export-oriented firms differ from domestic market firms in terms of input structure and import patterns. These two types of firms play different roles in determining the nature of a country’s global value chain participation.

Eric Gould, 19 December 2018

Declining manufacturing jobs in the US has a disproportionate impact on less-educated workers. Given that the black population is less educated than the white population, this will have a larger effect on blacks relative to whites. This column uses US Census data to show that the decline has increased inequality both within black and white communities and between black and white communities. It has also widened racial gaps in income, employment, health, marriage, and family formation.

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