Robertson, Raymond

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International trade, Labor economics
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Last updated June 6, 2023
Dr. Raymond Robertson is a professor and holder of the Helen and Roy Ryu Chair in Economics and Government in the Department of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. He is a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany. Robertson earned a BA in political science and economics from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and an MS and PhD in economics from the University of Texas at Austin. He has taught at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and was a visiting professor in the Department of Economics at the Graduate School of Administration, Monterrey Institute of Technology’s Mexico City campus. Widely published in the field of labor economics and international economics, Robertson currently chairs the US Department of Labor’s National Advisory Committee for Labor Provisions of the US Free Trade Agreements and is a member of the Center for Global Development’s advisory board.
Citations 19 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
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    Short and Long-Run Labor Market Effects of Developing Country Exports: Evidence from Bangladesh
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-03) Robertson, Raymond ; Kokas, Deeksha ; Cardozo, Diego ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys
    This paper studies how a positive export shock -- the sharp increase in garment-sector exports that began at the end of the Multifibre Arrangement (MFA) -- spread through Bangladesh's labor markets. Although the end of the MFA was arguably exogenous to Bangladesh, the authors instrument export demand with OECD imports to ensure identification. The paper compares estimates of the local labor market effects (wages and informality) and estimates from wage equations that reflect the predictions from long-run, general-equilibrium neoclassical trade theory. As in other studies, this paper finds that the export shock was localized both in terms of sector and geography. Wages increased and informality decreased in sub-districts more exposed to the export shock. Unlike in other studies, these local labor market effects dissipate quickly. Furthermore, Bangladesh's export shock was sector specific, limited predominantly to the female-intensive garment and textile sector. The paper shows that, following the increase in exports of the female-intensive good, the male-female wage gap closes considerably throughout the country -- not just in the apparel sector. In relatively small Bangladesh, the national labor market seems to be more integrated compared to larger countries studied, possibly suggesting that labor adjustment costs are lower in smaller countries.
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    Exports and Labor Demand: Evidence from Egyptian Firm-Level Data
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-10) Berg, Claudia N. ; Robertson, Raymond ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys
    Unlike many countries, the Arab Republic of Egypt did not experience significant labor market improvements following trade liberalization. This paper investigates why increased Egyptian exports did not directly increase employment. To illustrate the relationship between firm-level exporting and employment, the paper presents a simplified general equilibrium model with two sectors: one able to export and one “reserve” sector. The paper tests the implications of this theory using firm-level data from the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys in 2013, 2016, and 2020. The firm-level microanalysis demonstrates that although there is a positive employment response to export expansion, it does not occur at a large enough scale to be felt at the macro level. To seize the benefits of trade, Egypt requires deeper business environment reforms to incentivize large export, labor-intensive sector growth and integrate its economy into global value chains.
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    Is International Trade Always Beneficial to Labor Markets?: A Case Study from Egypt
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-10) Robertson, Raymond ; Vergara, Mexico ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys
    The Arab Republic of Egypt’s industries rely heavily on imported goods for production. Thus, an increase in imports could have a potentially positive effect on the labor market as it means more inputs for the production of exporting goods. Alternatively, minimal backward linkages in global value chains could also mean that increasing imports substitute for domestic production and, thus, lost employment opportunities. This paper evaluates the relationship between regional trade agreements using a gravity model and import flows to test whether rising imports have impacted wages, informality, and female labor force participation. The results suggest that imports are not to blame for disappointing labor market outcomes in Egypt.
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    Deep Integration in Trade Agreements: Labor Clauses, Tariffs, and Trade Flows
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-03) Robertson, Raymond
    Deepening preferential trade agreements extend coverage to social issues, including labor clauses. While there is a long history of debate over the intent of labor clauses, less is known about the impact of labor clauses. Recent studies show that labor clauses improve working conditions, but the impact on trade flows is still debated. Existing studies do not include a full set of fixed effects (to control for endogeneity and unobserved confounding factors), other dimensions of deep agreements that could be correlated with labor clauses (tariffs and other “deep” clauses), and pseudo-Poisson maximum likelihood estimation. This paper combines all three with additional robustness checks. While the estimated effect of trade agreements is positive overall, the estimated marginal relationship between labor clauses and trade volume is generally negative but varies with the type of clauses. Freedom of Association, Forced and Child Labor, and International Labor Standards are consistently associated with higher trade flows. Clauses that are more likely to eliminate illicit trade, including clauses related to discrimination, protection of working conditions, and third-party monitoring exhibit a negative marginal relationship with trade flows.
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    International Trade and Labor Markets: Evidence from the Arab Republic of Egypt
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-05) Robertson, Raymond ; Vergara Bahena, Mexico Alberto ; Kokas, Deeksha ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys
    Since the early 1990s, some developing countries have experienced a coincidence of rising exports—especially those related to global value chains—and improved labor market outcomes. During 2000–10, rising trade was associated with falling poverty and inequality in many developing countries. However, the Arab Republic of Egypt was not one of these countries, although it signed several trade agreements. The lack of trade-related improvements in labor market outcomes—including poverty, inequality, average wage levels, informality, and female labor force participation—could be explained by at least two possibilities. First, it is possible that trade agreements did not produce the same increase in trade for Egypt as for other countries. Second, it is possible that exports do not generate the same kinds of changes in labor market outcomes as experienced in other countries. After presenting the trends in key labor market outcomes over 2000–19, this paper evaluates both hypotheses. Using a gravity model approach, the results suggest that the changes in Egypt’s exports following trade agreements are above internationally estimated averages. Second, the results from a Bartik approach find no significant relationship between rising exports and wages, informality, or female labor force participation. Additional analysis shows that Egypt’s average wage levels are among the highest among countries that export the same goods exported by Egypt, possibly suggesting that Egypt has a relatively weak comparative advantage in currently exported goods, and thus might need to rethink its export basket.
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    Globalisation and the Gender Earnings Gap: Evidence from Sri Lanka and Cambodia
    (Taylor and Francis, 2020) Robertson, Raymond ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Savchenko, Yevgeniya
    Using household and labor force surveys from Cambodia and Sri Lanka, we find large positive wage premiums and a closing of the male-female wage gap during the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA) period, but smaller premiums and a widening wage gap after the end of the MFA. Our results suggest that apparel exports continued to benefit women in developing countries post-MFA but women – both in and out of the apparel industry – are susceptible to changes in global apparel prices.
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    The Relationship between Female Labor Force Participation and Violent Conflicts in South Asia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-03) Robertson, Raymond ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Morales, Matias
    This paper explores the link between the prevalence of violent conflicts and extremely low female labor force participation rates in South Asia. The Labor Force Surveys from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan are merged with the Global Terrorism Database to estimate the relationship between terrorist attacks and female labor supply. Geographical data on exposure to violence are used to compare administrative units exposed to attacks with those not exposed. The analysis finds that one additional attack reduces female labor force participation rates by about 0.008 percentage point, on average. Violence has less impact on male labor participation, thus widening the gender labor participation gap. The paper tests the added -- worker effect theory -- which posits that violence might increase female labor force participation as women try to make up for lost household income—and finds mixed evidence: greater prevalence of attacks may encourage married women to work more hours, but when the environment gets more risky, all women work fewer hours. The paper also finds that violence decreases female labor participation less where it was already higher and has a progressively greater impact on lowering female labor participation where the number of attacks is higher.
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    Employment in Crisis: The Path to Better Jobs in a Post-COVID-19 Latin America
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-06-17) Silva, Joana ; Sousa, Liliana D. ; Packard, Truman G. ; Robertson, Raymond
    A region known for its volatility, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has suffered severe economic and social setbacks from crises—including the COVID-19 pandemic. These crises have taken their toll on careers, wage growth, and productivity. Employment in Crisis: The Path to Better Jobs in a Post-COVID-19 Latin America provides new evidence on the effects of crises on the region’s workers and firms and suggests several policy responses that can bolster long-term and inclusive economic growth. This report has three key findings. First, crises lead to persistent employment losses and accelerate structural changes away from the formal sector. This change occurs more through reductions in the creation of formal jobs than through job destruction. Second, some workers recover from crises, while others are permanently scarred by them. Low-skilled workers can suffer up to a decade of lower earnings caused by crises, while high-skilled workers rebound fast, exacerbating the LAC region’s high level of inequality. Formal workers suffer smaller employment and wage losses in localities with higher rates of informality. And the reduced job flows caused by crises decrease welfare, but workers in localities with more job opportunities, whether formal or informal, bounce back better. Third, crises’ cleansing effects can increase efficiency and productivity, but these effects are dampened by the LAC region’s less competitive market structure. Rather than becoming more agile and productive during economic downturns, protected sectors and firms gain market share and crowd out others, trapping valuable resources. This report proposes a three-pronged mix of policies to improve the LAC region’s responses to crises: • Create a more stable macroeconomic environment to smooth the impacts of crises, including automatic stabilizers such as unemployment insurance and short-term compensation programs; • Increase the capacity of social protection and labor programs to respond to crises and coalesce these programs into systems that complement income support with reemployment assistance and reskilling opportunities; and • Tackle structural issues, including the lack of product market competition and the spatial dimension behind poor labor market adjustment—a “good jobs and good firms” agenda.
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    From Jobs to Careers: Apparel Exports and Career Paths for Women in Developing Countries
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2022) Frederick, Stacey ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, Raymond ; Vergara Bahena, Mexico A.
    It is well-established that bringing more women into the formal labor force is critical for economic development. One strategy often cited is further integrating developing countries into global trade, particularly global value chains (GVCs), to contribute to female labor market outcomes through the expansion of female-intensive industries. As a result, a big question frequently debated, is whether the apparel industry – which is the most female-intensive and globally engaged manufacturing industry – can be a key player in this regard. In recent decades, the apparel industry has shifted its production to low-wage developing countries, increasing the demand for women, closing male-female wage gaps, and bringing women into the formal labor force. Indeed, the benefits of apparel exports have reached the female population, but is an apparel-led export strategy sufficient to induce the transition from jobs to careers? This Report provides an answer by focusing on seven countries where the apparel industry plays an important role in its export basket – Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam. The Report’s key finding is that countries should take advantage of the apparel industry as a launching platform to overcome the fixed costs of introducing more women into the labor market. However, for this approach to work, there needs to be complementary policies that tackle the barriers that hinder women in their pursuit of long-term participation in the labor force and better-paid occupations. A hope is to shift the paradigm of how we think of women’s participation in the labor force by demonstrating the importance of the distinction between jobs and careers. Although aspirations towards careers are achieved in different ways, understanding how progress is being made in each country towards a more equitable life between men and women will pave the way for a better route forward.