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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 - 6 of 6
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(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2019-02-24) Artuc, Erhan ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, Raymond ; Samaan, DanielSouth Asia’s economy has grown rapidly, and the region has made a significant reduction in poverty. However, the available jobs for the growing working population remain limited. Policy makers are contending with lingering concerns about jobless growth and poor job quality. Exports to Jobs: Boosting the Gains from Trade in South Asia posits that exports, could bring higher wages and better jobs to South Asia. We use a new methodology to estimate the potential impact from higher South Asian exports per worker on wages and employment. We find that increasing exports per worker would result in higher wages, mostly for the better-off groups—like the better-educated workers, men, and the more-experienced workers—although the less-skilled and rural workers would benefit from new job opportunities outside of the informal sector. Our report shows that to spread the benefits from higher exports widely, policies are needed to raise skills and get certain groups, such as women and youth, into more and better jobs. Complementary measures include removing trade barriers and investing in infrastructure, and increasing the ability of workers to find higher-paying jobs. Together, these actions would help South Asian countries spread the gains from being closely integrated into the global economy through exporting. This book, which is the product of a partnership between the International Labour Organization and the World Bank, contributes to our understanding of the impact that growing exports can have on increasing well-being, and it bridges the gap between academic research and policy making.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-10-05) Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, RaymondApparel is the largest labor-intensive manufacturing industry in South Asia, and is a major employer of women. Although South Asia’s apparel sector benefits from many of the same favorable conditions as East Asia’s, performance in South Asian apparel remains well below that of East Asia. The objective of this study is to identify the policy changes necessary for South Asia to capitalize on this opportunity. The authors review the apparel sectors in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and compare them with Vietnam and China. The report uses quantitative data (analysis based on a gravity model, enterprise and buyer surveys) and qualitative information (interviews with leading firms) to identify changes in policies that would enable South Asia to meet the requirements of global buyers. Low productivity and poor trade logistics make it difficult for South Asia’s apparel sector to compete in global markets, despite a cost advantage due to lower wages than other major exporters. Leading firms exhibit that world class operational performance can be achieved in South Asia by investing in training and technology. These firms overcame constraints in the external environment by achieving economies of scale, and in the case of India and Pakistan, by integrating vertically to avoid barriers to sourcing high-quality inputs on the global market. All countries should promote Plug and Play industrial zones with ready to use industrial buildings and facilities to promote women labor force participation, as female workers would be the main beneficiaries of growth in apparel production.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-03) Robertson, Raymond ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Morales, MatiasThis 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.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-12) Savchenko, Yevgeniya ; Lopez Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, RaymondDisasters in Bangladesh and protests elsewhere have created an intense debate about the value, particularly to women, of apparel employment in developing countries. This paper focuses on how the forces of globalization, specifically the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA), have affected women's wages in the apparel sector in developing countries. The paper uses household and labor force surveys from Cambodia and Sri Lanka to estimate both apparel wage premiums relative to other industries and the male-female wage gap before and after the end of the MFA. The approach builds on new models that apply traditional trade theory (e.g., the Heckscher-Ohlin and Stolper-Samuelson theorems) to analyze the effect of globalization on gender-based earnings. The authors find large positive wage premiums and a closing of the male-female wage gap during the MFA period, but smaller premiums and a widening wage gap after the end of the MFA. The results suggest that the benefits of apparel exports for women in developing countries remain significant post-MFA. They also model an approach for studying the effects of globalization that differentiates males and females as separate factors. This may be a fruitful alternative to discrimination models or those that analyze the effects of globalization on women in terms of skill. Further research is necessary to identify the potential development effects of post-MFA apparel employment and to thoroughly compare the benefits documented in this paper with the costs that may come with apparel jobs.