Andres Rodríguez-Clare, Mauricio Ulate, Jose P. Vasquez, 17 May 2022

Concerns about international trade have grown, as recent studies document a negative effect of Chinese import competition on US labour markets. This column provides a new framework to explain this observation, which relies on the presence of downward nominal wage rigidity in US labour markets. The increased competition from China improves US terms of trade, but nominal wage frictions prevent the labour market from adjusting, so that both employment and labour force participation fall in the short run. The welfare implications vary substantially across states, but the favourable terms-of-trade shock drives a positive overall effect.

Oya Celasun, Niels-Jakob Hansen, Mariano Spector, Aiko Mineshima, Jing Zhou, 16 March 2022

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to strong increases in goods demand and concurrent supply disruptions to production and distribution. This column uses data from 30 countries to show that in 2021, supply shocks had a negative impact on manufacturing output, while demand shocks had a positive impact. In contrast, both contributed to higher manufacturing goods prices. Furthermore, there is substantial diversity in the magnitude of these effects across countries and sectors. Policymakers should seek to address specific supply bottlenecks and minimise the scarring from prolonged weakness to manufacturing activity. 

Massimiliano Calì, Giorgio Presidente, 13 March 2022

Do automation technologies constitute an opportunity or a threat for developing countries? This column uses data on Indonesian manufacturing firms to document a positive impact on employment of adopting robots. This finding contrasts with the existing evidence of negative impacts in economies at relatively advanced stages of automation, and could be explained by diminishing returns to robots, given the relatively low robot adoption in Indonesia. 

David Dorn, Peter Levell, 14 February 2022

The consensus view until the 2010s was that trade had little impact on inequality in high-income countries. This column reviews the recent evidence that challenges this view. Manufacturing employment contracted sharply in countries like the US and the UK which faced rapid net import growth from China. The resulting, persistent adverse effects on employment and incomes of low-skilled workers do not appear to have been offset by trade’s effect on prices, which seems to have benefited rich and poor households alike. Mitigating these effects is an important but difficult task for policymakers. 

Kristian Behrens, Manassé Drabo, Florian Mayneris, 01 February 2022

Cities are more vulnerable to economic shocks than to physical destruction. Yet, little is known about the factors that enhance their resilience to such shocks. This column uses data from Canada to show that cities that are more severely hit by big-plant closures and mass layoffs see their population shrink, especially among the young and working-aged residents. However, the initial presence of public and cultural services helps mitigate the adverse effect of massive job displacement on a city’s population.

Christos Axioglou, Przemyslaw Wozniak, 18 January 2022

Shortages in material and equipment weighed heavily on activity and sentiment in the European economy in 2021. This column uses cross-country and cross-sector data from the European Commission’s Business and Consumer Surveys and finds a strong negative relationship between shortages and industrial output. Shortages appear to have detracted some 5 percentage points from the EU manufacturing output growth between January and October 2021. Output losses are heavily concentrated in Germany (around half of the impact) and in a handful of sectors, with the EU-wide motor vehicle and machinery and equipment sectors accounting for a third of the impact. 

Elwyn Davies, Mary Hallward-Driemeier, Gaurav Nayyar, 12 January 2022

Conventional wisdom is pessimistic about the prospects for services-led development, leading to worries about premature deindustrialisation. This column argues that the services sector deserves more credit for helping drive economic transformation than it generally receives. Using firm-level data from 20 developing economies, the authors find that while services establishments are smaller than manufacturing establishments, this matters less for their productivity. Services firms can scale up without sizing up through investments in human and other more intangible forms of capital can leverage the diffusion of digital technologies. 

Pavel Chakraborty, Devashish Mitra, Asha Sundaram, 07 December 2021

The global market size of outsourcing doubled between 2000 and 2019. While most studies look at foreign outsourcing, this column uses new data on Indian firms to analyse the effects of increased competition from Chinese imports on the domestic outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. It finds that greater import competition is associated with a significant increase in domestic outsourcing. Additionally, it shows that this effect is only present in Indian states with pro-worker labour regulations. Thus, it highlights the important role of domestic institutions in how firms adapt to globalisation. 

Jaedo Choi, Andrei Levchenko, 09 November 2021

Industrial policy is back on the agenda in high-income countries. This column examines the impact of firm-level industrial policy measures in the 1970s on the South Korean economy. The authors find that South Korea’s heavy and manufacturing industries are an example of where activist industrial policy appears to have succeeded, with the temporary subsidies having a large and statistically significant effect on firm sales as long as 30 years after they ended. However, today’s policymakers face the same challenge as those in the past: identifying conditions – such as dynamic productivity effects or externalities – under which activist industrial policy is welfare-improving. 

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.

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