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Marcel Timmer

University of Groningen

Marcel Timmer is Deputy-Director of the CPB Netherlands Bureau for of Economic Policy Analysis and professor of economic growth and development at the Groningen Growth and Development Centre at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He has recently led the research program ‘Modelling Global Value Chains: a new framework to study trade, jobs and income inequality in an interdependent world’, which built on his contributions through the World Input-Output Database project (www.wiod.org). He holds a PhD from the Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands.
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publication
Structural Change in Exports: from product to functional specialization

Trade analysis on the basis of countries’ export baskets can be misleading when production is globally fragmented. The chapter argues for a switch to analysis of the type of activities that are embodied in exports. The chapter discusses two steps towards this goal. It first discusses the transition in trade studies from product to vertical specialization. A country’s vertical specialization in trade is measured as the share of domestic value added in its gross exports. The chapter identifies three waves of vertical specialization in the world economy since 1970 and documents the servicification of manufacturing exports. Results from cross-country analysis show a robust association between specialization and productivity growth, but not between specialization and employment growth. Next, the chapter considers functional specialization in trade based on the measurement of distinct activities in export such as fabrication, marketing and R&D, based on an occupational classification of workers. It documents how advanced economies continued to specialize in headquarter activities, while quickly moving out of fabrication activities. It also shows that there are many idiosyncratic determinants of a country’s specialization pattern beyond its general development level. The chapter ends with suggestions for further research, given that the measures of trade in value added and activities presented are still in a development phase.

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Labour demand in global value chains: Is there a bias against unskilled work?

Rodrik (2018) hypothesizes that technology used in global value chains (GVCs) is biased against the use of unskilled workers. To test this hypothesis, we introduce a GVC production function in which final output is produced by means of factor inputs from all countries that participate in the GVC. In contrast, previous studies only consider one stage of production using inputs from a single country. We derive substitution elasticities and labour demand bias in a system of translog GVC cost equations. We find that technical change in GVCs was strongly biased against the use of low‐educated workers, neutral for middle‐educated workers and in favour of high‐educated workers. We show that the biases moderate the potential of GVCs to increase demand for low‐educated workers in low‐income countries.

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Factor incomes in global value chains: The role of intangibles.

Recent studies document a decline in the share of labour and a simultaneous increase in the share of residual (‘factorless’) income in national GDP. We argue the need for study of factor incomes in cross-border production to complement country studies. We define a GVC production function that tracks the value added in each stage of production in any country-industry. We define a new residual as the difference between the value of the final good and the payments to all tangibles (capital and labour) in any stage. We focus on GVCs of manufactured goods and find the residual to be large. We interpret it as income for intangibles that are (mostly) not covered in current national accounts statistics. We document decreasing labour and increasing capital income shares over the period 2000-14. This is mainly due to increasing income for intangible assets, in particular in GVCs of durable goods. We provide evidence that suggests that the 2000s should be seen as an exceptional period in the global economy during which multinational firms benefitted from reduced labour costs through offshoring, while capitalising on existing firm-specific intangibles, such as brand names, at little marginal cost.

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Catching-up in the global factory: Analysis and policy implications

MNEs shape the location of activities in the world economy, linking diverse regions in what has been called the global factory. This study portrays the evolution of incomes and employment in the global factory using a quantitative input–output approach. We find emerging economies forging ahead relative to advanced economies in income derived from fabrication activities, handling the physical transformation process of goods. In contrast, convergence in income derived from knowledge-intensive activities carried out in pre- and post-fabrication stages is much slower. We discuss possible barriers to catching-up and policy implications for emerging economies in developing innovation capabilities, stressing the pivotal role of MNEs.

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Measuring bilateral exports of value added: a unified framework.

We provide a unified framework for measuring bilateral exports of value added. We outline a general methodology that encompasses the measures introduced by Johnson and Noguera (2012) (value added consumed abroad) and Los et al. (2016) (value added in exports), to which we refer as VAX-C and VAX-D, respectively. In addition we suggest a novel third measure, VAX-P, which indicates the value added used abroad in the final stage of production. We show that they can all be derived with the method of hypothetical extraction in a general input-output model. This is helpful in comparing and contrasting their characteristics. As a corollary, we show that for VAX-C and VAX-P the sum of bilateral measures is equal to the corresponding aggregate measure, but that this is generally not true for VAX-D. We illustrate all measures with empirical examples computed on the basis of the World Input-Output Database. These indicators can found at www.wiod.org.

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Do Global Value Chains Enhance Economic Upgrading? A Long View

Exporting through global value chains (GVCs) has recently been highlighted as a panacea for weak industrialisation trends in the South. We study the long-run effects of GVC participation for a large set of countries between 1970 and 2008. We find strong evidence for the positive effects on productivity growth in the formal manufacturing sector. This effect is stronger when the gap with the global productivity frontier is larger. However, we find no evidence for a positive effect on employment generation. These findings also hold in analyses of sub-sets of countries and industries and are robust to the inclusion of non-manufacturing employment.

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Patterns of vertical specialisation in trade: long-run evidence for 91 countries

The authors estimate the domestic value-added content in exports of manufacturing goods (VAX-D ratio) for 91 countries over the period from 1970 to 2013. They find a strong decline in the world VAX-D ratio since the mid-1980s mostly accounted for by the substitution of foreign for domestic intermediates. Using a breakpoint detection method, they identify three waves of vertical specialisation in the world economy: 1970–1979, 1986–1995 and 1996–2008. The authors find that most countries (79) initiated a period of vertical specialisation at least once. They find strong evidence that the VAX-D ratio correlates negatively with GDP per capita, and that the negative slope is flattening out at higher levels of income.

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Jobs in Global Value Chains: New Evidence for Four African Countries in International Perspective

What is the potential for job growth in Africa under participation in global value chains (GVCs)? In this study the concept of GVC jobs is introduced which tracks the number of jobs associated with GVC production of goods. A novel decomposition approach is used to account for GVC jobs by three proximate sources: global demand for final goods, a country's GVC competitiveness (measured as the country's share in serving global demand) and technology (workers needed per unit of output). Based on newly assembled data, it is shown how GVC jobs and incomes have changed over the period 2000–14 in Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa, compared to developments in some other low- and middle-income countries in the world. The four African countries stand out in terms of a low share of GVC jobs in the (formal) manufacturing sector, and a relatively high share in agriculture due to strong backward linkages, especially in the case of food production. All countries benefitted highly from growing global demand for final goods. At the same time it appears that technical change in GVCs is biased against the use of labour, greatly diminishing the potential for job growth through GVC participation.

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Functional specialisation in trade

Production processes are fragmenting across borders with countries trading tasks rather than products. Export statistics based on value added reveal a process of vertical specialisation. Yet, what do countries do when exporting? In this article, we provide novel evidence on functional specialisation (FS) in trade. We find surprisingly large and pervasive heterogeneity in specialisation across countries. A positive (negative) correlation between GDP per capita and specialisation in R&D (fabrication) functions is documented. Specialisation in management and marketing functions is unrelated to income. We show how our approach can be easily extended to study FS in trade at the sub-national level. We argue that this is needed to better understand the potential for regional development under global integration.

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