DP10242 Trade and Tasks: An Exploration over Three Decades in Germany

Author(s): Sascha O. Becker, Marc-Andreas Muendler
Publication Date: November 2014
Keyword(s): demand for labour, labour force survey, offshoring, trade in tasks
JEL(s): F14, F16, J23, J24
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, International Trade and Regional Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=10242

This paper combines representative worker-level data that cover time-varying job-level task characteristics of an economy over a long time span with sector-level bilateral trade data. We carefully create longitudinally consistent workplace characteristics from the German Qualification and Career Survey 1979-2006 and prepare trade flow statistics from varying sources. Four main facts emerge: (i) intermediate inputs constitute a major share of imports, and their relevance grows especially in the early decade; (ii) the German workforce increasingly specializes in workplace activities and job requirements that are typically considered non-offshorable, mainly within and not between sectors and occupations; (iii) the imputed activity and job requirement content of German imports grows relatively more intensive in work characteristics typically considered offshorable; and (iv) labour-market institutions at German trade partners are largely unrelated to the changing task content of German imports but German sector-level outcomes exhibit some covariation consistent with faster task offshoring in sectors exposed to lower labour market tightness. We discuss policy implications of these findings.