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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.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 23
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2012-03-14) Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, Raymond ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, RaymondThe global textile and apparel sector is critically important as an early phase in industrialization for many developing countries and as a provider of employment opportunities to thousands of low-income workers, many of them women. The goal of this book is to explore how the lifting of the Multi-fibre Arrangement/ Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (MFA/ATC) quotas has affected nine countries Bangladesh, Cambodia, Honduras, India, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam with the broader aim of better understanding the links between globalization and poverty in the developing world. Analyzing how employment, wage premiums, and the structure of the apparel industry have changed after the MFA/ATC can generate important lessons for policy makers for economic development and poverty reduction. This book uses in-depth country case studies as the broad methodological approach. In-depth country studies are important because countries are idiosyncratic: differences in regulatory context, history, location, trade relationships, and policies shape both the apparel sector and how the apparel sector changed after the end of the MFA. In-depth country studies place broader empirical work in context and strengthen the conclusions. The countries in this book were chosen because they represent the diversity of global apparel production, including differences across regions, income levels, trade relationships, and policies. The countries occupy different places in the global value chain that now characterizes apparel production. Not surprisingly, the countries studied in this book represent the diversity of post-MFA experiences. This book highlights four key findings: The first is that employment and export patterns after the MFA/ATC did not necessarily match predictions. This book shows that only about a third of the variation in cross-country changes in exports is explained by wage differences. While wage differences explain some of the production shifts, domestic policies targeting the apparel sector, ownership type, and functional upgrading of the industry also played an important role. Second, changes in exports are usually, but not always, good indicators of what happens to wages and employment. While rising apparel exports correlated with rising wages and employment in the large Asian countries, rising exports coincided with falling employment in Sri Lanka. Third, this book identifies the specific ways that changes in the global apparel market affected worker earnings, thus helping to explain impacts on poverty. Fourth, in terms of policies, the countries that had larger increases in apparel exports were those that promoted apparel sector upgrading; those that did not promote upgrading had smaller increases or even falling exports.
What Drives Short-Run Labor Market Volatility in Offshoring Industries? Evidence from Northern Mexico during 2007–2009(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2012-11) Kaplan, David S. ; Lederman, Daniel ; Robertson, RaymondRecent research shows that employment in Mexico's offshoring maquiladora industries is twice as volatile as employment in their U.S. industry counterparts. The analyses in this paper use data from Mexico's social security records and U.S. customs between the first quarter of 2007 and the last quarter of 2009 to identify four channels through which economic shocks emanating from the United States were amplified when transmitted into Mexico's offshoring labor market of Northern Mexico. First, employment and imports within industries are complements, which is consistent with imports being used as inputs for the assembly of exportable goods within industries. That is, when imports fell during the crisis, employment in Mexico was reduced rather than protected by the fall of imports. Second, contrary to other studies, employment is more responsive than wages to trade shocks. Third, fluctuations in Mexico-U.S. trade were associated with changes in the composition of employment, with the skill level of workers rising during downturns and falling during upswings. This implies that the correlation between average wages and trade shocks is partly driven by labor-force compositional effects, which may obscure individual-worker wage flexibility. Fourth, trade shocks affecting related industries (industries linked by employment flows affect employment at least as much as own-industry trade shocks, thus amplifying employment volatility through the propagation of shocks across industries within Northern Mexico. Furthermore, the data suggest that the observed fluctuations in U.S.-Mexico trade at the onset of the Great Recession in the U.S. were not associated with pre-existing employment trends in Northern Mexico.
Publication(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-09) Robertson, RaymondThis article analyzes three criteria for labor market integration between Mexico and the United States (U.S.) before and since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): the responsiveness of Mexican wages to US wage shocks, the speed at which relative wages return to a long-run differential, and changes in the rate of convergence of absolute wages. Tests for increased integration using these three criteria generate mixed results, which are then explored by directly incorporating trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), and migration. The results suggest that trade and FDI did in fact positively contribute to integration but that the increase in border enforcement depressed Mexican wages, masking the positive benefits.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-12) Kaplan, David S. ; González, Gabriel Martínez ; Robertson, RaymondUsing a census of all workers in private establishments in the formal sector in Mexico to track workers and establishments over time, this paper presents the first Mexican worker and job flow statistics. The data allow for comparing these flows across time, space, and worker characteristics. Although many patterns are similar to those documented in developing countries, the analysis uncovers patterns that have potentially important policy implications. The authors compare the results to the literature, illustrate how the statistics change during times of reform and crisis, and present novel findings that contribute to the broader literature on worker reallocations.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2016-03-23) Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, Raymond ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, RaymondSouth Asia is in the midst of a demographic transition. For the next three decades, the growth of the region’s working age population will far outpace the growth of dependents. Close to one million individuals will enter the workforce every month. This large, economically active population can increase the region’s capacity to save and make crucial investments in physical capital, job training, and technological advancement. But for South Asia to realize these dividends, it must ensure that its working-age population is productively employed. As one of the most prominent labor-intensive industries in developing countries, apparel manufacturing is a prime contender. With around 4.7 million workers in the formal sector and another estimated 20.3 million informally employed (combined with textiles), apparel already constitutes close to 40 percent of manufacturing employment. And given that much of apparel production continues to be labor-intensive, the potential to create more and better jobs is immense. There is a huge window of opportunity now for South Asia, given that China, the dominant producer for the last ten years, has started to cede some ground due to higher wages. But the region faces strong competition from East Asia—with Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam already pulling ahead. Plus the sector suffers from production inefficiencies and policy bottlenecks that have prevented it from achieving its potential. Against this backdrop, this report hopes to inform the debate by measuring the employment gains that the four most populous countries in South Asia—Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (hereafter `SAR countries’)—can expect in this new environment of increased competition and scrutiny. Its main message is that it is important for South Asian economies to remove existing impediments and facilitate growth in apparel to capture more production and create more employment as wages rise in China. The successful manufacturers will be those who can supply a wide range of quality products to buyers rapidly and reliably—not just offer low costs.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-03) Robertson, Raymond ; Kokas, Deeksha ; Cardozo, Diego ; Lopez-Acevedo, GladysThis 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.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-11) Halliday, Timothy ; Lederman, Daniel ; Robertson, RaymondMexican wage inequality rose following Mexicos accession to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization in 1986. Since the mid-1990s, however, wage inequality has been falling. Since most trade models suggest that output prices can affect factor prices, this paper explores the relationship between output prices and wage inequality. The rise of inequality can be explained by the evolution of the relative price of skill-intensive goods relative to unskilled-intensive goods, but these prices flattened by 1999 and thus cannot explain the subsequent decline in wage inequality. An alternative trade model with firm heterogeneity driven by variations in the relative price of tradable relative to non-tradable goods can explain the decline in wage inequality. The paper compares this model’s predictions with Mexican inequality statistics using data on output prices, census data, and quarterly household survey data. In spite of the models simplicity, the model’s predictions match Mexican variables reasonably well during the years when wage inequality fell.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-05) Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, RaymondFor anyone concerned about the effects of globalization on poverty in developing countries, the apparel sector in general and the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) and the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) in particular are key areas of interest. As an important first step toward industrialization, the apparel sector continues to provide an alternative for workers in low-wage agriculture or service jobs (especially less-skilled workers and women), even after other manufacturing sectors are established. By providing formal labor experience, these jobs hold the promise of lifelong participation in the labor market, which in the long term can help workers move out of poverty. Therefore, understanding how employment, wage premiums, and the structure of the apparel industry have changed after the end of the MFA and ATC is important to appreciate the effects of this significant policy change on poverty.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-10) Berg, Claudia N. ; Robertson, Raymond ; Lopez-Acevedo, GladysUnlike 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.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-10) Robertson, Raymond ; Vergara, Mexico ; Lopez-Acevedo, GladysThe 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.