The rapid rise of China on the global economic stage could have substantial and unequal employment and wage effects in advanced industrialised democracies given China's large volume of low-wage labour. Thus far, these effects have not been analysed in the comparative political economy literature. Building on new pooled time-series data, we analyse the effects of Chinese trade competition across 17 sectors in 18 countries between 1990 and 2007. Our empirical findings reveal overall employment declines and higher earnings inequality in sectors more exposed to Chinese imports. We devote particular attention to a new channel, increased competition from China in 59 foreign export markets, which positively affects the high-skilled whilst the low-skilled bear the brunt. Hence, this study shows that neglecting the competition in foreign countries leads to underestimation of the distributive effects of trade. More generally, our findings provide new insights into how international trade, technological change, and labour market institutions contribute to the widely observed trend of rising inequality.
globalisation export competition wage inequality labour markets sectors