World Economics

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Offshoring and the Labour Share in Germany and US
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Deborah Winkler & William Milberg, World Economics, December 2015
Despite broad public concern with the effect of offshoring on inequality, there is scant research. The authors shift the focus to the effect of offshoring on the labour share in value added. Regression analysis for a sample of 14 OECD countries in 21 manufacturing sectors covering the period 1995 to 2008 reveals that the effects of offshoring on the labour share are negative. They also show that different policy regimes with regard to labour markets, education and innovation, and trade liberalisation mediate these effects whilst contrasting the experiences of Germany and the U.S. where the manufacturing labour share decline was particularly strong.
Bias in the ‘Proportionality Assumption’ Used in the Measurement of Offshoring
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Deborah Winkler & William Milberg, World Economics, December 2012
Most studies of offshoring rely on a ‘proportionality assumption’ where every sector is assumed to import each material and service input in the same proportion as its economy-wide use. We assess the bias resulting from this assumption. Since Germany collects imported inputs directly, we are able to compare the direct and proxy measures, where the proxy is constructed with the proportionality assumption. The proxy fails to accurately capture the variation in services offshoring intensity because – as a result of the proportionality assumption – it is strongly influenced by the variation in demand for domestic inputs. Estimation of the effect of offshoring on labour demand for 35 manufacturing sectors in Germany over 1995–2006 shows that the direct and proxy-based measures of services offshoring give very different results. The implication goes beyond the case of Germany: researchers must be cautious about drawing policy conclusions from estimates using the proxy of offshoring.
How Many US Jobs Might be Offshorable?
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Alan S. Blinder, World Economics, June 2009
Using detailed information on the nature of work done in over 800 US Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational codes, this paper ranks those occupations according to how easy/hard it is to offshore the work – either physically or electronically. Using this ranking, it is estimated that somewhere between 22% and 29% of all US jobs are or will be potentially offshorable within a decade or two. (No estimate is made of how many jobs will actually be offshored.) Since the rankings are subjective, two alternatives are presented – one is entirely objective, the other is an independent subjective ranking. In general, they corroborate the rankings, albeit not perfectly. It is found that there is little or no correlation between an occupation’s ‘offshorability’ and the skill level of its workers (as measured either by educational attainment or wages). However, it appears that, controlling for education, the most highly offshorable occupations were already paying significantly lower wages in 2004.

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