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South–South Trade and Skill Premia


  • I thank Firat Demir and Sherine El Hag. Remaining errors are my own.


Contrary to the predictions of the 2 × 2 × 2 Heckscher–Ohlin model, empirical evidence shows that the skill premium increased in some developing countries and decreased in others after trade liberalisation. This paper attempts to reconcile the empirical evidence with the theoretical predictions by introducing a model where South–South trade can produce the observed patterns of skill premia in the South. In this context, South–South trade expands the import range of the country that reduces the tariff. This increases the demand for and the cost of skilled workers in the other country. This also leads the country that reduces the tariff to expand its export range and reduce its import range. Therefore, the country that reduces the tariff experiences an increase in its export range, which leads to an increase in the skill premium. As the impact on the import range is ambiguous, it is possible that the other country experiences a decline in the skill premium. Thus, trade liberalisation between Southern countries can cause an increase in the skill premium in one and a decrease in the skill premium in another.