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Skilled and Unskilled Wages in a Globalizing World, 1968-1998

Davin Chor ()

No 06-2008, Working Papers from Singapore Management University, School of Economics

Abstract: This paper constructs a data set on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) adjusted skilled and unskilled wages in 139 countries for the period 1968-1998, based on the International Labor Organization's (ILO) annual October Inquiry and the Freeman and Oostendorp (2000) Occupational Wages Around the World (OWW) file. It finds strong evidence for the existence of well-integrated markets for skilled and unskilled labor, justifying the approach of constructing a skilled wage series and an unskilled wage series. Several significant results emerged from an analysis of a representative subset of 67 countries which provided unbroken coverage for 1970-1994: (i) there is striking evidence of unconditional convergence in the skilled-unskilled wage ratio worldwide; (ii) this relative wage convergence was especially strong within a "club" of open economies, suggesting that Heckscher-Ohlin-Sameulson mechanisms might be at work; and (iii) there is a relatively weak pattern of convergence in unskilled real wages, implying that the claim of "Divergence, Big Time" (Pritchett 1997) has to be qualified when factor markets are studied instead of aggregate incomes.

Pages: 42 pages
Date: 2008-02
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Published in SMU Economics and Statistics Working Paper Series

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