Discussion paper

DP15815 Techies, Trade, and Skill-Biased Productivity

We study the impact of firm-level choices on ICT, R&D, exporting and importing on the evolution of productivity, its bias towards skilled workers, and implications for labor demand. We use a novel measure of firm-level R&D and ICT adoption: employment of “techies” who perform these tasks. We develop methodology for estimating nested-CES production functions and for measuring both Hicks-neutral and skill-augmenting technology differences at the firm level. Using administrative data on French firms we find that techies, exporting and importing raise skill-biased productivity. In contrast, only ICT techies raise Hicks-neutral productivity. On average, higher firm-level skill biased productivity hardly affects low-skill employment, even as it raises relative demand for skill, due to the cost-reducing effect. ICT accounts for large increases in aggregate demand for skill, mostly due to the effect on firm size, less so through within-firm changes. Exporting, importing, and R&D have smaller aggregate effects.


Harrigan, J, A Reshef and F Toubal (2021), ‘DP15815 Techies, Trade, and Skill-Biased Productivity‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15815. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15815