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Skill Distribution and Comparative Advantage: A Comparison of China and India

Discussion Papers

No.277

February 2011

ABSTRACT

This paper empirically examines the different comparative advantages of two emerging economic giants, China and India, in relation to the different skill distribution patterns in each country. By utilizing industry export data on China and India from 1983 to 2000, we find that a country with a greater dispersion of skills (i.e., India, especially in the earlier years) has higher exports in industries with shorter production chains, whereas a country with a more equal dispersion of skills (i.e., China, especially in the later years) is found to have higher exports in industries with longer production chains. The causal relationship is fairly robust across different specifications. This empirical evidence supports our assumption that the likely mechanism for these results is the negative impact of low-skilled workers on input quality, which accumulates and becomes larger as the length of production chains and the proportion of low-skilled workers in the economy increase.

Keywords: China, Comparative advantage, India, Production chains, Sequential production, Skill distribution
JEL classification: F14, F16

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