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Trade and Tasks: An Exploration over Three Decades in Germany

Sascha O. Becker, Marc-Andreas Muendler

NBER Working Paper No. 20739
Issued in December 2014
NBER Program(s):The International Trade and Investment Program, The Labor Studies Program

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 for merchandize and services. 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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20739

Published: Sascha O. Becker & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2015. "Trade and tasks: an exploration over three decades in Germany," Economic Policy, Volume 30, Issue 84, Pp. 589 - 641 citation courtesy of

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