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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, 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.
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(Taylor and Francis, 2020) Robertson, Raymond ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Savchenko, YevgeniyaUsing 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.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-06-07) Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, Raymond ; editorsIn the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), trade liberalization measures have coincided with stable economic growth, and GDP per capita growth has surpassed that of other developing regions. However, MENA’s labor-market outcomes—such as average wage levels, informality rate, and female labor force participation—continue to underperform. Why has rising trade failed to produce better labor market outcomes in low- and middle-income countries in the region? Exports to Improve Labor Markets in the Middle East and North Africa focuses on the impact of trade policy on trade ¬flows and their relationship with local labor market outcomes in three low- and middle-income countries—the Arab Republic of Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. Given their idiosyncratic labor markets, export diversification, and trade policy history, these three countries other important lessons for economic development in the region. Policy makers and stakeholders can use these findings to design policies to improve the chances that higher trade flows will deliver better labor market outcomes and ensure that the benefits are more equally shared.