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Headshot of Mairi Spowage Headshot of Mairi Spowage Headshot of Mairi Spowage Headshot of Mairi Spowage

Mairi Spowage

Research Theme Lead for Data Management

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James Black

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Economic theory tells us that trade can help boost employment outcomes in the long run. However, the benefits of trade are not necessarily experienced equally, and some may miss out altogether. Evidence suggests that some sectors do better than others and that the impact on labour can differ by gender, skill group, age group and part of the UK.

Some countries, such as the United States and Canada have sought to improve their understanding of the distributional impact of trade by estimating these various impacts. In recent years, the research we have done at Strathclyde, supported by our partner at the Department for International Trade, sought to replicate and extend this best practice in a UK context to gain insights into the different types of jobs that are supported by trade.

A report we published in February 2021 presented comprehensive results on this for the first time for the UK. It examined how jobs in the UK are supported by exporting activities. In particular, it investigates how these supported jobs are held within different parts of society. It looks at industry, destination country, gender, qualification, age and region to name a few dimensions.

Our report found:

As with any modelling framework, there are a number of assumptions underpinning the results. The modelling relies on industry averages as we do not have enough information at the firm-level to separate exporting firms from non-exporting firms within an industry. However, evidence suggests that exporting firms are different to non-exporting firms.

On average, they have higher labour productivity and are more import intensive. This will result in the estimates of jobs supported by exports being overestimated. On average, they also pay higher wages which will result in the income supported by exports being underestimated.

Therefore, it is best practice to view these results as having moderately broad confidence intervals, rather than providing point estimates.

We provide recommendations in the report for improving the underlying data which can better account for these assumptions.

The research that we plan to undertake as part of the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy will seek to support the development of these estimates further, and continue our work to support data producers like the Office for National Statistics in improving the underlying data used. We will be working closely with our colleagues at Sussex to utilise firm level microdata in an endeavour to improve the estimates.

Some examples of extensions include:

Most excitingly, this will lead us to produce further and updated versions of the jobs in trade database for reuse by other researchers.

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