Import, Offshoring and Wages: Rent Sharing or Composition?

Henrik Barslund Fosse, Madhura Maitra

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Offshoring firms are found to pay higher average wages than purely domestic firms. We provide a unifying empirical approach by capturing the different channels through which offshoring may explain this wage difference: (i) due to change in the composition of workers (skill composition effect) (ii) because all existing workers get higher pay (rent sharing effect). Using Danish worker-firm data we explain how much each channel contributes to higher wages. To estimate the causal effect of offshoring on wages we use China’s accession to the WTO in December 2001 - and the soon after boom in Chinese exports - as positive exogenous shocks to the incentive to offshore to China. Both skill composition and rent sharing effects are found to be important in explaining the resultant gain in wages. We also show that the firm’s timing in the offshoring process determines the relative importance of a channel. For firms offshoring to China in 2002 but not in 1999, only rent sharing explains the gain in wages. For firms offshoring to China both before and after China’s WTO accession the wage increase is explained mostly by the skill composition effect. Moreover, these patterns are not discernible from the measures of skill composition and rent sharing available in typical firm level datasets - like ratio of educated to uneducated workers and sales per employee.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherCentre for Economic and Business Research, Copenhagen Business School
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Offshoring
  • Wages
  • Rent Sharing
  • China
  • WTO

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