spence159_sesameGetty Images_businessdisruption sesame/Getty Images

Countering Structural Disruptions

From globalization to artificial intelligence, powerful forces are driving structural change in developed and developing economies alike. Policies focused on mitigating the inevitable distributional consequences of such change are critical to sustaining it.

MILAN – Trade and technology development policies almost always have distributional consequences. There may be a few exceptions for which the implementation of a policy produces either gains or no loss for nearly everyone, what economists would call a Pareto improvement. But these instances are relatively rare. You could argue that for early-stage developing countries, the export-driven growth model that draws surplus labor into the modernizing manufacturing and urban sectors comes close to meeting this standard. But even there, the gains are not spread evenly, and income inequality normally increases.

Distributional impacts are the norm, within countries and across national boundaries. Successful developing countries experience structural change as part of the growth process. The long-term benefits of exposure to global markets and investment are very large, driving both growth and significant structural adjustments in terms of jobs, skills, and human capital. But some sectors are inevitably adversely affected.

To ensure that new economic opportunities and pressures do not overwhelm the ability of developing countries – particularly the labor force – to adapt, policymakers should manage the pace and sequencing of the opening process in trade, investment, and the capital account. For example, if net employment creation – jobs created minus jobs lost – turns negative, opening may be happening too fast.

To continue reading, register now.

Subscribe now for unlimited access to everything PS has to offer.


As a registered user, you can enjoy more PS content every month – for free.