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Openness and Factor Shares: Is Globalization Always Bad for Labor?

Leblebicioglu, Asli and Weinberger, Ariel (2018): Openness and Factor Shares: Is Globalization Always Bad for Labor?

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Abstract

The secular decline in the labor share since the 1980's is a global phenomenon, and a trend that is concurrent with large liberalization episodes worldwide. In this paper we investigate the liberalization episode in India during the 1990's, which has been characterized by large and unexpected changes in trade and foreign investment policies. Contrary to what might be expected given the reduction in the aggregate data, we uncover a trade channel that raises the labor-to-capital relative factor shares in India. A reduction in capital tariffs and liberalization of FDI raise the share of income paid to labor relative to capital. Our results reveal access to foreign capital as a new mechanism through which openness affects factor shares. An increasing share of foreign capital in the total capital stock provides a capital-augmenting technical change and potentially reduces rental rates, both of which raises the relative labor share. We find capital and R&D intensities, and the borrowing capacity of the firm, to be important determinants of the factor share response to openness. Finally, we identify domestic deregulation policies and credit expansion as potential determinants of the observed decline in the labor share.

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