Brenton, Paul and Pinna, Anna Maria and Vancauteren, Mark. (2000) Adjustment to Globalisation: A Study of the Footwear Industry in Europe. CEPS Working Document No. 151, October 2000. [Working Paper]
In this study of the footwear sector we seek to assess how producers in different EU countries have adjusted to increased competition from low-wage countries. There are a number of features of the performance of the sector in Europe that cast doubt over the applicability of the standard trade model, which has typically been used to assess the impact of globalisation. These characteristics also undermine a number of common perceptions regarding low-skilled labour intensive industries. Firstly, the trade data clearly demonstrate that as import penetration has increased so have export to output ratios. This suggests that adjustment to more intense import competition could entail the movement of resources into the production of higher quality differentiated fashion shoes and not just the movement of resources to other sectors. Secondly, the group of production or unskilled workers in footwear is far from homogeneous, as is often assumed in discussions of the impact of globalisation. Thirdly, for footwear it is apparent that technological change has not been pervasive. Information regarding two new technologies shows widely varying rates of application across countries. Finally, some EU countries have been able to maintain employment and output in footwear whilst in other countries production has declined dramatically. This suggests that a variety of responses to globalisation are available to firms in OECD countries, including outsourcing and overseas investment, quality upgrading and increased flexibility in the context of industrial districts.
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